Busch Knows Bristol's Challenges
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on April 21, 2017 | 3:15 P.M. EST
“There are so many different things you always have to adjust to, and then roll with how things are unfolding throughout the race.” (Photo: Getty Images)
Kurt Busch is a five-time race winner at Bristol Motor Speedway but he’s fully aware of how difficult it is to succeed at the Tennessee short track.
While Busch enjoys racing at the .533-mile track, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver understands the many challenges one has to overcome in order to perform well.
“I always look forward to coming to Bristol with the atmosphere, the way that the track is designed, the way that the intimate setting is so cool for the fans, the fact that there’s no garage area here, we work out on pit road,” Busch said as he prepares for Sunday’s Food City 500. “There are so many little small things that are small and unique about Bristol and the race itself with the pit strategy and how the tires play out and the low lane versus the high lane.
“There are so many different things you always have to adjust to, and then roll with how things are unfolding throughout the race.”
Relatively new to the list of Bristol’s unique characteristics is the application of VHT to the racing surface in an effort to provide additional grip and in turn another lane for drivers to use. Busch had some success with the substance when it was used in last year’s August race but isn’t exactly sure how it will impact things this weekend.
“As far as the VHT, Bristol is a perfect place to apply it to because of the concrete and the fact that they have the drag strip out in the back yard here, and the way VHT works it has to be dry,” he explained. “ If it’s applied properly, which I assume it will be, water won’t get underneath it or there won’t be any type of moisture issues with it, but, yes, it’s tough to trust, it’s tough to predict because we don’t run on it all that much, and a track like Bristol you need to rub it in, it needs to get groomed in and with the lack of practice time we might have, it might not be as consistent as we want it to be, so you’ve got to just ease into it.”
Busch does believe the VHT will play into the hands of drivers with a certain kind of experience outside the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
“This is a perfect style of track to think about when you’re a dirt racer,” he said. “It’s not ready to go right away. You’ve got to pack the track a little bit. You’ve got to groom in the different grooves and then it’s gonna change once you get into the race and go into its optimum performance level.
“Dirt track racers will love this type of weekend and then the track can dry so quickly here that you’ve got to be ready when there is a practice session that might have rain go through it and then it can dry and you can be right back out there.”
Last but not least this year at Bristol is the new stage format that will make its track debut Sunday. So far Busch has seen how the idea of stage racing has impacted the competition and has no doubt it will do so on Sunday.
“I think that moment at Martinsville is a perfect definition to the stage racing,” Busch said when asked about the incident between race leader Kyle Busch and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who was trying to stay on the lead lap, at the end of the second Martinsville stage a few weeks ago. “It creates opportunities for many different things to happen, whether you’re a lapped car or you’re the leader. Short tracks, superspeedways, road courses, those are the three types of tracks that I thought would be impacted the most by stage racing.
“The mile-and-a-halves we get a little bit spread out, but yet there are still certain things that you do because certain mile-and-a-halves chew up the tires big-time, compared to other mile-and-a-half tracks so the pit strategy still gets sprinkled in. I think what happened at Martinsville is a perfect definition of what the stage racing was meant to do.”