After positive comments from drivers last August, Bristol Motor Speedway again will add grip to the bottom groove, Jerry Caldwell, the track’s general manager, told NBC Sports on Friday.
Track officials added a chemical compound on 18 inches of the bottom groove in the corners to help cars get through there quicker.
“I know what we did worked,’’ Caldwell said. “We liked what we saw, and the drivers all seemed to like it, the fans liked it, why not continue to do that?’’
The result was two-wide racing in August. The 20 lead changes in that Cup race ranked second for most lead changes at Bristol in the past eight races there. NASCAR stated that there were 2,454 green-flag passes in that race, ranking fourth at the track since the statistic was first kept in 2005.
Caldwell said the compound will be added to the track within the next 10 days. The track then will have a tire machine run through the lower groove to help provide more grip. The Xfinity Series races there April 22, and the Cup Series races April 23. Caldwell said the process is similar to what was done last before last year’s event.
One issue that arose last year was that the Camping World Truck Series teams were hesitant to use the bottom groove in the first practice session in August. They moved to the lower groove in the second session and times were quicker.
“We believe that there were a few things that were going on in August when we first put that on,’’ Caldwell said. “One, everyone was a bit unsure. You don’t have any confidence when you go down. I think that was part of the reason they stayed off of it. They wanted somebody else to try it first. The other is all of our races, good Lord willing, with the weather cooperating … we expect the track temperatures to be hotter during the day. The other is that the modifieds had run on that track and put rubber down on that lower portion with a different type of tire. We think that also had something to do with the fact that it felt slick when (Truck teams) first went down there. When you got that rubber off, it was more tacky.’’
Xfinity and Cup drivers had no issues when they got on the track a couple of days later. Drivers liked it so much that some Cup drivers requested that another coating of the compound, which is similar to what is used on a dragway to aid traction at the starting line, be applied before the Cup race. NASCAR and track officials did so.
Kevin Harvick suggested last year that Martinsville Speedway could be another track to treat the corners in a similar fashion to help the top groove, but it won’t happen for next weekend’s Cup and Camping World Truck Series races, Clay Campbell, track president told NBC Sports.
“It’s always been a one-groove racetrack,’’ Campbell said of the track that is celebrating its 70th anniversary. “Fans like that and that style of racing. That’s what makes this place what it is. I don’t want to want to take a chance on altering the way that the races are run here.’’
Campbell said the track tested a substance to aid traction last year “with mixed results.
“I think it depends on who you talk to as to whether it was a positive or a negative. In my view, the racing has never been bad here. You go back through history, it’s always been the same style of racing even though we’ve gone from asphalt to concrete in the corners. If something it not broken, I don’t know why we need to fix it.’’