Column By: REID SPENCER / NASCAR – BRISTOL, TN – In Friday’s opening Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice at Bristol Motor Speedway, Kyle Busch couldn’t find a familiar feel.
“Here today, for some reason, the traction compound (applied in the lower lane) doesn’t feel anything like I remember it from last fall,” said Busch, whose victory last Augusta made him a six-time winner at the track. “It’s just not quite as grippy as I remember it being. For some reason, it’s just really easy to slip out of it with the back or the front and it’s really slick up off the corner.”
Busch felt the new right-side tire supplied by Goodyear might have a lot to do with the unfamiliar feel. The tread compound is the same, but the construction differs from that of last year’s tire.
“Definitely there’s a difference with the new right-side tire,” Busch said. “That might be the feeling that I’m feeling today that’s just different. Like I mentioned earlier, that it could be the substance (traction compound) that feels different, but it might be the right-side tire that’s different.
“There’s something that’s just not a familiar feeling. The tire could be some of that.”
Erik Jones, Busch’s teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing, is happy with the new tire—and should be. He tested for Goodyear at Bristol in September.
“Fortunately, they picked one of the tires we tested,” Jones said. “So I was able to kind of get a leg up on some of the other guys here and know what that tire was going to feel like and have a pretty good idea of what it’s going to do in the long run.
“I think we made a 50 or 60 lap run on it, so I have a pretty good idea.”
NEW ALL-STAR RACE RULES PREEMPT RICKY STENHOUSE JR.’S AERO IDEAS
At a team meeting at Roush Fenway Racing, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was all set to make suggestions designed to improve the performance of his No. 17 Ford for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race in May and on intermediate speedways in general.
At the time, Stenhouse was unaware of significant changes coming to the All-Star Race cars, which will feature a major reduction in horsepower through the use of restrictor plates and a larger spoiler designed to add downforce.
“The aero package, I found out I think a day before it went out (in an announcement), for the All-Star Race,” Stenhouse said. “We were actually talking in meetings at the shop, and I was talking about things I wanted to try to get our mile-and-a-half program better, things I wanted to build into the car for Charlotte for the All-Star Race.
“And they were like, ‘We think it’s going to be a little bit different than what you think,’ so I was like, ‘Thanks.’”
The aero package to be used at Charlotte was tested in last year’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis. That race produced a record 16 lead changes.
FOR RYAN PREECE, SATURDAY’S XFINITY RACE IS A STEP UP IN CASH
For a driver running a limited NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule, the opportunity to run for $100,000 is an opportunity that can’t be overstated.
That’s certainly the case for Joe Gibbs Racing driver Ryan Preece, who has already made the most of the two races he has run in the series this year. The modified ace finished fifth last Saturday at Texas Motor to earn eligibility for the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus at stake in Saturday’s Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Preece will vie with three other eligible drivers—Christopher Bell, Cole Custer and Daniel Hemric—for the cash prize, which will go to the highest finisher among the four.
“To be honest with you, I’m used to running from anywhere to $2,000 races to $10,000 races, so to come here and to have a chance to win $100,000 is a big deal to me,” Preece said. “All of us do say it doesn’t matter if it’s at a go-kart track for a piece of plastic or for $100,000, we’re going to race each other hard – pretty hard.
“I would say that’s true, but at the same time, $100,000—I know what it’d do for me, and I’m going to race very hard to get that… Like I said last week, it would help me build more race cars, so that’s a big deal.”
It’s also a big deal for charity. Through its Internet Essentials program, Comcast will donate an additional $10,000 in conjunction with each of the four Dash 4 Cash races. The designated local charity for the Bristol race is the Quest Foundation for Washington County Schools.
Preece was third on the speed chart during opening NASCAR Xfinity Series practice—and fastest of the four Dash 4 Cash drivers.
KEVIN HARVICK TO BACKUP CAR AFTER HARD CRASH IN PRACTICE
Kevin Harvick, a three-time winner in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series this year, will stake the rest of the Food City 500 field to a handicap on Sunday—but not by choice.
Roughly 45 minutes into opening practice at Bristol motor Speedway, Harvick’s No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford veered to the right in Turn 3 and shot into the outside wall.
“Something obviously either came off or broke in the front suspension,” Harvick said after the crash. “It looks more like the right-front, to tell you the truth.
“It definitely wasn’t a tire failure or anything like that, but just going in the corner, as soon as I let off the gas it just hung a right, so it’s unfortunate for our Busch Beer/Jimmy John’s Ford, but we’ll get another one out and do it again.”
Under NASCAR rules, Harvick will start Sunday’s race from the rear of the field in his backup car.
AJ Allmendinger also spun in opening practice and tagged the wall with the right rear of his No. 47 JTG-Daugherty Racing Chevrolet, but the team opted to forego a backup car in favor of repairing the primary.