CONCORD, N.C. – The NASCAR Cup Series is going back to Bristol this weekend, and that means 500 laps of racing in a coliseum style atmosphere.
While short-track racing brings fast speeds and close contact, there are also many challenges to racing in such close proximity.
Take a look at the five challenges the Hendrick Motorsports teams take on when preparing to race at Bristol.
1) Spacing. A short track like Bristol has no garage area. Teams are exposed to the elements, making it difficult to take cover in the case of inclement weather. It also makes common race-day tasks harder.
“Something as innocent as setting up your scales and making sure they’re absolutely level becomes more of a difficult task,” said Robert Deering, shop foreman for the Nos. 48 and 88 shop. “There’s no level ground at the track like a garage floor that is even enough.”
2) High noise levels. The arena style seating at Bristol makes for an extremely loud race. Not only are fans closer to the action, but teams are as well. The distance from the hauler area to pit road is much smaller when compared to that of Daytona and Talladega. As a result, the roar of cars on the track makes it harder for crews to communicate with one another.
3) Speed. One lap around Bristol Motor Speedway is only half-a-mile long. In the spring race at the Tennessee track, Hendrick Motorsports teammates turned approximately 15-second laps. Compare that to this summer’s race at Daytona, where lap times averaged about 46 seconds a lap.
“Bristol is fast,” Deering said. “There’s little or no reaction time for the drivers, pit crews or the engineers and crew chiefs. They’re going around the track in such a rapid pace that it’s hard to stay on top of it all.”
4) Pit Selection. Pit stall selection is important regardless of track size. However, at Bristol there are pit stalls on both the back and front stretches. When drivers end up with a pit stall on the back stretch of the track, it can make it difficult to maintain track position.
“Qualifying is critical every week,” Deering said. “But qualifying well helps you get a better pit stall. We always aim for the pole, especially here, so we can get that first stall.”
5) Hydration. It’s important that every member of the team – including the drivers – stays hydrated on race-day. Races in the summer are always a bit more of a challenge for crew members because of the humidity. As a result, team members are encouraged to take in additional fluids.
“The race at Bristol in August tends to be very hot and humid,” Deering explained. “So crews and drivers really have to pay attention to staying hydrated. And not just with water, it’s fluids to keep you from melting in the seat.”