"Thunder Valley" Revs Up The Weekend

This week all three of NASCAR’s top racing series will be at Bristol Motor Speedway, otherwise known as "Thunder Valley".

If you want to see a ton of close racing with some beatin’ and bangin’ then this is the track for you.

Bristol is a ½-mile concrete oval with variable banking in the turns (24 – 30 degrees). Since the track was repaved with this variable banking the racing groove has widened a bit, it is now almost two full lanes wide. Prior to the addition of the new banking, Bristol was pretty much a one groove track where the only way to really pass was to put your front bumper up against the rear bumper of the car in front of you and ‘gently move’ the guy out of the way.

One thing the crews and drivers don’t have to worry about too much is the way the track will change during the course of the race. Since it is made out of concrete the track temperatures don’t change too much, which means that the race teams won’t be fighting significant handling problems as a result of drastic temperature changes in the racing surface like they do at asphalt tracks.

What the teams have to worry about is keeping their car out of trouble on the track. One way to do that is having a good qualifying effort to put the car up front where the chances of getting caught up in a wreck are less than running back in the pack where anything can happen.

Also, if you get a good qualifying spot then you get a better pit stall - and trust me you want a good pit stall - preferably the first one leaving pit road where no one can block you in as the pit stalls at Bristol are not as long as at other tracks, making it tighter for drivers to get in and out.

After the huge penalties, fines, and suspensions handed out by NASCAR to the Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) organization for what NASCAR analyst and former Cup Champ Darryl Waltrip calls "reverse cheating" on his blog it will be interesting to see how JGR responds to the unwanted media attention. Even though the penalty infraction happened in the Nationwide Series, I can’t see that the Cup side of the organization isn’t affected somehow because everything those guys do, whether it is Nationwide or Sprint Cup, will be watched under a microscope now by NASCAR, the media, and the fans.

With JGR trying to keep their drivers in the hunt for the Chase with just 3 races remaining this is a distraction that drivers Kyle Busch (18) Denny Hamlin (11) and Tony Stewart (20) and their crews don’t need right now.

The drivers to watch out for at this track are any of the JGR drivers (11, 18, 20) - if they can handle the extra attention they’re getting; Greg Biffle (16); Kevin Harvick (29); Jeff Burton (31); Dale Earnhardt Jr. (88); and the still-winless-this-season Jeff Gordon (24).

Something else of note is that current NASCAR Canadian Tire Series Champ, Andrew Ranger, will drive in seven of the remaining Ten Nationwide Series races, including Bristol, for Fitz Motorsports in the number 22 car.

If Ranger can just finish the race on the lead lap without wrecking his car, or anyone else’s, I would consider that to be a victory and it would further solidify his new position at Fitz Motorsports.

Ranger is a talented driver and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the Sprint Cup Series one day and he must look at this 7 race deal as an audition for future rides in the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series’.

That is why it is important for Ranger to run well, consistently, and without incident so he can better his chances for a future in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

I think Ranger will find that easier said than done in "Thunder Valley" on Friday night though.

I've got a new podcast up as well, so scroll on over to the sidebar and give a listen!

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