'Thunder Valley' Next for Trucks
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on August 20, 2014 | 10:10 A.M. EST
As has been the case in recent years, Kyle Busch will be the driver to beat in this year’s edition. Busch has 16 career Bristol wins across NASCAR’s top three national divisions, including seven Truck Series triumphs. (Photo: Getty Images)
Bristol Motor Speedway is playing host to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for a mid-week special: tonight's University of Northwestern Ohio 200.
The high-banked Tennessee short track has been a staple on the Truck Series schedule dating back to its inception in 1995. After a three-year break, it returned for the 2003 season and has been in place ever since.
As has been the case in recent years, Kyle Busch will be the driver to beat in this year’s edition. Busch has 16 career Bristol wins across NASCAR’s top three national divisions, including seven Truck Series triumphs.
He’s the defending race winner and, understandably, looking forward to Wednesday night’s race, which will kick off his tripleheader effort including the weekend’s Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series events.
"I love Bristol. Getting back there running all three divisions is going to be fun," said Busch, who pulled off the Bristol "trifecta" in 2010. "We'd love to be able to repeat 2010. That would be amazing. But since they've ground that place, it's not necessarily been my best track lately. So I've got some work to do to figure out how to get better there and make it happen."
Despite Busch’s recent challenges, he’s still a fan of racing at the track but maybe more importantly, the style of competition Bristol produces.
"We grew up at the (Las Vegas Motor Speedway) Bullring, which maybe isn't quite as high-banked as Bristol," Busch said. "I enjoy racing at other quarter-mile or half-mile high-banked tracks. You get a great feel for racing in a bowl.
"You go down the straightaway, slam it into the corner, mash the gas and sling right back out of the corner. It's kind of an art. Some guys are really good at it. They make it seem easy."
Last week’s race at Michigan International Speedway was anything but easy for Ryan Blaney, who suffered through a miserable day and lost the points lead thanks to finishing 21st after winning the pole. Splitter issues ruined the day for both Blaney and crew chief Chad Kendrick.
"We didn’t get the finish we wanted, but I’m sure Chad and all the guys will find out what’s going on," said Blaney. "It’s frustrating, but we’ve got to keep the big picture in mind because there's a lot of racing still to go."
Johnny Sauter won the race in a one-two finish for ThorSport Racing as teammate Matt Crafton came home second. That gave the Wisconsin native the series points lead heading into Bristol. Although his Bristol record isn’t the best with only a pair of top-five performances in six career starts, the former short-track standout is looking forward to racing in "Thunder Valley."
"Bristol is one of my favorites. It always has been," said Sauter. "It's short-track racing at its best and I just can't get enough of that."
New crew chief Jeff Hensley made an immediate impact last week, helping guide Sauter to his first career Michigan win. Sauter believes Hensley's presence will make a difference in a run to this year’s championship.
"(Jeff) Hensley has only been with the team for a short time, but he's already made some strides that I feel will keep us moving in the right direction," Sauter said. "I'm looking forward to what the second half of the season has in store."
Motor Racing Network - "The Voice of NASCAR" - will have live coverage presented by Keystone Light of the UNOH 200 starting at 8 p.m. (ET), with live streaming at MRN.com.