WBKR NASCAR Preview – Irwin Tools Night Race 500
Here's Blake Smith's analysis of this weekend's fun. After an exciting race at Michigan, the top 3 NASCAR touring series convene again this weekend at the newly revamped Bristol Motor Speedway. In the weeks following Brad Keselowski’s March victory, track promoter Bruton Smith decided to change the track configuration to the “old Bristol” after fans voiced their opinion of the racing at the half-mile speedway.
With just 3 races left before the Chase for the Championship cut off, Richard Childress Racing made a crew chief swap for Kevin Harvick’s #29 team. Veteran crew chief, Gil Martin will return to the pit box replacing Shane Wilson. Wilson and Harvick have seemed to struggle during the 2012 season, finding themselves winless and sitting 8th in points. “We're just trying to turn things around to make sure we get in the Chase, then be competitive once we get into the Chase," Martin told FOXSports.com. "It's not a question of us knowing each other's history, we've worked together before.” Wilson was named crew chief following the 2011 season, replacing Martin who had been with Harvick since 2009.
ASA racing sensation and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver, Aaron Fike has been reinstated following completion of NASCAR’s Road to Recovery Program. Fike was suspended indefinitely from NASCAR in 2007 after being arrested by police at an Ohio amusement park using an illegal substance. Even with the reinstatement, Fike doesn't have any immediate plans to return to NASCAR competition. Fike knows the challenges of convincing team owners and potential sponsors to take a chance on him with his past history.
The 2007 Food City 500 was the first race for NASCAR’s Car of Tomorrow. Following that race, Bristol officials widened the track by 3 feet and also varied the banking in each of the turns. So for teams, all the notes you have compiled since the 2nd 2007 Bristol race are useless. Crew chiefs will arrive Friday morning with a clean slate. Drivers and teams will spend Friday’s practice sessions monitoring tire wear as well as configuring a setup to be competitive during Saturday night’s 500 lap race.
With the new configuration, qualifying and track position will be vitally important for Saturday night’s race. Out of 103 races at Bristol, 82 of those have been won from a top 10 starting position. If a driver qualifies poorly or has a mistake during his qualifying lap, passing under green flag conditions will be a challenge so the team may have to rely on pit strategy to get them in contention on Saturday.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr and his team will be unloading a brand new chassis for this weekend’s event. In 25 starts at Bristol, Earnhardt has one win, 7 top fine and 12 top 10 finishes. Last week’s winner, Greg Biffle will be bringing Chassis RK-807 which finished 11th at Dover in June. Michael Waltrip Racing had a very successful Spring race at Bristol. My pick for this weekend, Clint Bowyer will be bringing Chassis #724, which has 2 top 5 finishes this season.