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Teammates Anticipating Short-Track Chaos

BRISTOL, Tenn. (March 23, 2006) – Bristol Motor Speedway. Thunder Valley. Beating. Banging. Helmet-throwing. A half-mile of concrete so challenging the excitement it guaranteed.  What’s not to love?
Well, quite a bit, actually, if you’re the guy who is supposed to navigate the chaos.

“Short tracks, given their nature, represent a good place to get into trouble if you’re not careful,” says Brian Vickers, driver of the No. 25 GMAC Chevrolets.

And even if you are careful, short tracks just seem to have a way of jumping up and biting you. Who can forget Dale Earnhardt’s last-lap tussle with Terry Labonte in 1999? At the very least, there’s a lot to pay attention to at a place like Bristol, whether you’re just watching or integrally involved in the action.

“The main thing there is keeping everything in check,” says Alan Gustafson, crew chief for Kyle Busch’s No. 5 Kellogg’s Chevrolets.  “The spotter will have to help keep the driver out of trouble. The crew will have to be good on pit road. The driver will have to get in and out of the pit stall perfectly. There’s a lot to it. Last year everything went wrong that possibly could.”

The long and the short of it is, the beast that is racing at a place like Bristol doesn’t pay any attention to the quality of the driver or the ability of the pit crew or how well the car is handling through the first part of the race. In other words, no matter how good you are in practice or qualifying or on Lap 323, trouble is never more than a split-second away.

“Bristol has not been too good to me in the NEXTEL Cup Series,” says Busch, who finished 28th and 33rd in his first two turns at Bristol last year. “If you don’t qualify up front and your car isn’t good, you can go a lap down in the first 15 laps. And if you get out of the racing groove it’s hard to get back in because the line of cars behind you looks like a freight train coming through. It’s a tough race.

“I just want to keep the fenders on the Kellogg’s Chevrolet and get the best finish we can get out of it. This race is always wild, guys are always mad at the end and there will always be plenty of feuds to read about the week after.”