Two-time defending Sharpie 500 winner Matt Kenseth wasn’t all that thrilled when he heard that Bristol Motor Speedway was getting a facelift. He liked the World’s Fastest Half-Mile just as it was and wasn’t too keen on any changes.
On Tuesday, Kenseth was one of 33 drivers who took part in a Busch Series test on the half-mile oval. After being on-track for several hours his reaction to the new concrete surface was a positive one.
“They did a nice job of re-doing it,” he said. “There are some differences, but they’re subtle differences. I think it’s nice. It seems there is more potential than ever before to have two grooves.”
Kenseth still has an affinity for the old Bristol track but admits the new surface might make racing even better.
“I think most drivers liked it, the fans loved it and it was hard to make it a lot better,” he said. “I do think it will be a little better with more action.”
Kenseth is looking forward to going for a third straight August win at BMS and doesn’t feel the new surface is the biggest challenge he faces in making that happen.
“I don’t think the changes in the track are as big a deal as the change with the cars,” he said. “It’s all about the Car of Tomorrow anyway. It was like starting over in the spring with that car and now we’re going to be starting over again.”
Ryan Newman, who owns the track record at BMS, set during qualifying for the 2003 Food City 500 of 128.709 mph at 14.908 seconds, also sat on the pole for the 2004 spring race. He liked the feel of the new surface, as well.
“It’s definitely way smoother than it was before,” he said. “The transitions are good and there’s a little relaxation coming off the corners.
“There’s more room on the exits of the corners so eventually you’re going to have a second groove. This track has always been a lot of give and take and I think there’s still going to be a lot of give and take.
“There will still be some single-file racing but it’s going to be better. There is a groove and a half to run right now. The biggest thing right now is what kind of tire Goodyear chooses to bring and how much it lays rubber down.”
Kevin Harvick, who swept both races at Bristol in the spring of 2005, also gave the new concrete high marks.
“It’s good,” he said. “They did a really nice job with the concrete. It’s smooth but not as smooth as I thought it would be or as smooth as some of the new asphalt tracks like Charlotte and Vegas are, but that’s OK. You want some character.
“It’s really different. That’s fine; it’s just different. You come off the corners differently with the new transitions. It’s just going to take some getting used to. When you are so used to everything and how the car will react and then it changes, you obviously have to adjust. But I think they have done a really good job.”
Busch Series regular Jason Keller, who won the 1999 spring Busch race at BMS, says the surface is different but in a good way.
“It’s definitely different and I think that’s a good thing,” he said. “I love it. There’s not as much transition getting in the corners and that should lend itself to more side by side racing. Going three-wide might be a stretch but I think you’ll definitely see side-by-side racing. “
The Busch Series returns to BMS for the Food City 250 on Friday night, Aug. 24. The O’Reilly 200 Craftsman Truck Series race and the Food City 150 Hooters ProCup event kick off three nights of racing on the oval on Wednesday, Aug. 22. The marquee event, the sold-out Sharpie 500, concludes an action-packed race week on Saturday night, Aug. 25.
Story Courtesy: BMS