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August 22, 2012
By Micah Roberts
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This Saturday night we get to see the new and improved racing at Bristol Motor Speedway's resurfaced half-mile track. That may sound funny because Bristol had just repaved their track in 2007 with a new progressive banking that allowed for multiple grooves. The drivers loved the racing because they weren't all fighting for the same spot, which resulted in less banging, less crashes and less flare-ups at the end of the races. It also resulted in lesser fans.
Each ensuing year since the 2007 repave, the once-hardest ticket in the world to obtain became the easiest. The final straw for Speedway Motorsports CEO Bruton Smith came in March when the 150,000 seat facility was less than half full. The fans had spoken to the degree of how much they disliked the multi-grooves and to his credit, Smith immediately made plans to restore the track to its old layout.
Tony Stewart was one of three drivers to test the track out in a June session and indicated things might be back to the 'racing oughta-be', as the Bristol tagline says.
"Well, you've definitely lost the top groove," said Stewart. "Guys who run up there aren't going to be able to do that because it's pretty slick up there. There's going to be less room to race, that's for sure. We've gone from a three-groove track to two grooves and any time you've got less room to get around it can get pretty interesting.
"I'm one of the guys who likes that high groove so it's really going to change things up for me. It'll change things for everybody though because when you take away room to race on a track this small with 43 cars… yeah, it's going to tighten things up."
With things being back to normal, we can go back to looking at a select group of drivers like we did in the past. It took a tough aggressive driver to win at Bristol who had no fear of irritating anyone. The fastest way around the track is the bottom again, and if someone is slower and won't let you pass, you make him move by all means necessary.
Kyle Busch is a five-time winner at Bristol with four of the wins coming on the surface just bulldozed out of the way. However, he did win on the old surface's last run. He has that type of attitude needed to get the most out of his car and he's in a desperate situation as he needs one more win to secure his chances in the Chase. Only three races remain until the final 12 drivers will be known. The clock is ticking.
Brad Keselowski probably isn't too happy about the changes on the track because he's won the last two Bristol events. However, he should be in good shape because he beats and bangs with the best of them. He battles for his space on the track with the best of them and has earned all the drivers respect because of it.
Matt Kenseth is a two-time winner at Bristol, both of which came of the old layout. Although not exactly known for being a hard nose tough driver, Kenseth has always had what it takes to get around the track and with a win in sight he has no fear of ruffling some feathers.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has also been a driver that fared very well on the old Bristol layout. He won in 204 and always seemed to finish within the top-5 before the track went to a multi-groove layout. He now has a car that is one of best set-up weekly and should contend for the win this week.
Between Busch and Keselowski, they have won six of the past seven Bristol races. Despite the changes to the track, they are the starting point for this week.
Top-5 Finish Prediction:
1) #18 Kyle Busch (7/1)
2) #2 Brad Keselowski (8/1)
3) #17 Matt Kenseth (10/1)
4) #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. (12/1)
5) #14 Tony Stewart (10/1)
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