The NASCAR Sprint Cup and Xfinity Series have completed their first trip to the .533-mile Bristol Motor Speedway. Here are five takeaways from the Food City 500 and the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300:
· Heat Races: Back in January at the NASCAR Media Tour in Charlotte, NASCAR announced that the NASCAR Xfinity Series will participate in heat races in the Dash4Cash events in 2016. This was a great first run of this style format. However, the heat races need to be worked on because there was no excitement in the heats. Qualifying should not happen when we use this format. There were no eliminations which made the races lackluster. In order to divide the field into the two heats, NASCAR should use the average speed of practice to divide the field or have slips of paper in a hat labeled 1 or 2, and whatever number you draw, that is your heat. I know this is the first run of this format, but it is obvious something needs to change to add more drama and excitement. We need the “Norm Benning Moments”.
· Tires: The tire combination used at Bristol has not changed. Goodyear needs to try to bring softer tires. Drivers were complaining that the tires were making it hard to pass. In the Food City 500, we saw couple of drivers who had melted beads when they wrecked. That is not a Goodyear issues, but a setup issue. It is not a tire problem when only a couple of drivers experience problems.
· Old vs New Bristol: This ever going debate continued into the weekend. For me, they are both the same. The only difference between old and new Bristol is the racing line. In Old Bristol, drivers would race the bottom lane and the top lane would be hard to pass. New Bristol has the same idea, but the racing groove is on the high lane. Drivers say that the racing is better on “new” Bristol. Does our debate come from how many wrecks were experienced on each configuration? Honestly, that seems to be the issue.
· Matt Kenseth: Matt cannot seem to catch a break this season. He is always running up towards the front, but something always happens to where he cannot finish where he started. The other Joe Gibbs Racing cars have won a race, leaving Kenseth as the only driver to not have done so. Hopefully, the tide will turn for Kenseth and his JGR team so that Coach Gibbs will have all four of his cars into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
· Solid Finishes: The Food City 500 saw some unfamiliar names in the top-10. Trevor Bayne, who finished fifth, had his best career finish since he won the 2011 Daytona 500. Matt DiBenedetto, who finished sixth, has an amazing story and created a new career best finish at Bristol. Clint Bowyer, who finished ninth, has struggled throughout much of the season with HScott Motorsports. Short tracks should now be considered the great equalizer, just like plate tracks. Martinsville also had some new names in the top-10. Will Richmond provide the same?
What are your takeaways from the events at Bristol Motor Speedway?