Bristol Story Lines

Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne

Matt Kenseth held off Kasey Kahne to win at Bristol last August after a late-race duel. (Photo: Getty Images)

BRISTOL, Tenn. - Matt Kenseth looks back at his Bristol win in August and wonders how he might have triumphed had he been running second in the final laps instead of first.

“It’s easier to get side-by-side but it’s way harder to complete a pass than it used to be,’’ Kenseth said, noting how the groove has moved near the wall. “When a guy is stuck right up on the top and you’re right behind him on the last lap, it’s also harder to do that ... bump and run.’’

When the low groove was the preferred lane, a bump moved the lead car up the track and one could slip underneath. With the groove near the wall, a bump doesn’t move the car ahead as far up the track, making the move more difficult.

Kenseth beat Kahne last year at Bristol as Kahne could not get around him.

So, can the bump-and-run be a factor? 

“The bump-and-run is always an option,’’ said Jeff Gordon, who used the tactic to beat Rusty Wallace at this track. “It’s one of those options where the guy has to leave you no other option. That is what the bump-and-run is all about. It’s not about just going up there and hitting the guy. You get inside of him, he runs you down. You get on the outside, he runs you up. You’re a lot faster and they’re holding you up. It comes down to the shot at winning. You do what you have to do to try to win.’’

Adding to this is the carrot that a win all but gets a driver in the Chase. Some suggest that could lead to additional chances in the final laps.

“If you want to dump somebody at a racetrack like this, you’re going to need a really good reason to do it,’’ said Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. “The mentality has changed over the years and the new system changes that mindset slightly too where if you move a guy out of the way for lack of a better way to explain it, you can blame the system and move on.’’

Will it happen in the Food City 500? That’s just among the story lines at Bristol.

FAST STARTERS

Hendrick Motorsports teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon could accomplish something they’ve never done before.

Earnhardt is looking to join Richard Petty as the only driver to start a season with four consecutive top-two finishes. Petty did it in 1974.

“Anytime you do anything that Richard has done and you put yourself in the conversation with him ...  it’s you know, a pretty awesome accomplishment,’’ Earnhardt said. “Just something else we can hang our hat on and we’ve got a shot at it, man. We really run good here. I like coming here.”

Gordon is seeking his fourth consecutive top-10 finish. He’s never started a Cup season with four consecutive top-10 finishes.

TURNAROUND?

Other than Kevin Harvick’s performance, the start of the season has not been very kind for Stewart-Haas Racing. Bristol also hasn’t been as good.

Kurt Busch starts 13th with Harvick 27th, Danica Patrick 36th and Tony Stewart 37th. Stewart made it via owner points after not being among the 36 fastest cars in qualifying.

Will today be the day the SHR drivers see better results or will they go another week trying to find speed?

MARBLES

Marbles have been building along the high line at Bristol. They played a role in some of the crashes in Sprint Cup practice on Friday. In Saturday’s Nationwide race, drivers were able to make the high line work.

When a car runs over the marbles, it loses traction and can skate into the wall. It will be worth noting how marbles impact the high groove.

“I don’t think anyone really knows what’s happening with the rubber buildup on the racetrack,’’ Carl Edwards said. “It might make this a true one-groove racetrack again, which maybe could be the best thing for the race.’’

WEATHER

The National Weather Service calls for at least 90 percent chance of rain throughout the day. Bristol Motor Speedway has lights and NASCAR will do everything possible to run the race Sunday if rain delays the event. 

Bristol announced that if the race cannot be held Sunday, it will be scheduled for noon ET Monday.

 

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