CONCORD, N.C. -- While heading to Bristol Motor Speedway is daunting at any time of the year, the short track provides an extra layer of complexity when “The World’s Fastest Half Mile” is the location of a cutoff race in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. However, crew chiefs Cliff Daniels and Alan Gustafson will greet the Tennessee track with excitement as their drivers, Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott, gear up to race under the lights this Saturday.
For Daniels, the history that comes with the mayhem-filled track is what’s so intriguing to him. While he would love a win at any playoff track, taking home some hardware from Bristol with Larson would be a personal feather in his cap.
“Bristol lives up to its name,” Daniels said. “It’s the last great colosseum. You have these grandstands that rise into the sky surrounding the racetrack. The track is concrete, it’s rough, it’s tough; so much banking and the pace that the driver’s run there for 500 laps, there is no cruise control.”
Daniels will have some big competition from Gustafson this weekend, who also sees Bristol as a bucket list venue to cross the finish line first. Gustafson has had success at the track with Elliott – the duo earned their first All-Star Race win in 2020 at Bristol after Elliott raced hard in the final stage to earn the $1 million prize.
“Certainly, going back to Bristol paved is going to be good,” Gustafson said. “I’m a big fan of that track and I’m looking forward to going back there and racing. That’s one of my favorite tracks, so that one of the first round is one that I’m looking forward to going to.”
Part of the difficulty of racing at Bristol is how tight the corners are and how there is very little time to speed up and slow down on the straightaways. It applies a lot of pressure on the brakes and tires while leaving the drivers very little room for error. Combined with the electric atmosphere of racing under the lights, the drivers have no choice but to be on high alert for the entirety of the race.
“The guys are giving it 100% every single lap for 500 laps, it just makes it a duel,” Daniels said. “It makes it a really cool race to be a part of.”
The playoff race at Bristol Motor Speedway will start Saturday, Sept. 18 at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.