BRISTOL, Tenn – The common theme for the NASCAR drivers this weekend at the Bristol (Tenn) Motor Speedway has been the way that the racetrack was prepared. First, the PJ1 traction compound was applied to the lower racing line in both corners of the high banked Tennessee oval. This has been a summer of that as the PJ1 has been added to most of the race tracks since June in order to create better racing with more lanes available to race on.
The drivers were fine with this application being added to the lower groove at Bristol. They expected it. But, without the drivers knowing, the track grinded down and worked on the high groove to make it unraceable.
That absolutely has drove the drivers crazy this weekend.
BRISTOL, TN – APRIL 16: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, and Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 McDonald’s Chevrolet, race during the rain delayed Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 16, 2018 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Both Busch brothers said that when they saw how the top lane looked on Friday, they were furious. They immediately texted the others drivers in a group text and none of them on the other end of the text knew that the track decided to do this.
The drivers said that SMI (the track owners) told them that all they did was scrape the rubber off. The drivers aren’t buying what they’re selling. The competitors think that SMI did this so that no one could race near the wall this weekend. With the added grip in the lower groove of Turns 1-2 and 3-4, this has become a one groove race track. To add to that, no one knew that the track was altered which is a huge problem in the NASCAR garage.
That, in theory, would make it like the old Bristol where drivers have to knock the car out of the way in front in order to get by. It’s the way that the Truck Series race went on Thursday night to where drivers had to make bold moves to get to the bottom. This is exactly what the track and race fans want to see though.
The Cup drivers feel Saturday’s race will be the same way which for the fans isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but for the drivers they don’t like that they don’t have as much real estate around just a half-mile track to race on.
It’s my understanding that @MarcusSMI told track workers to do it. He’s not here unfortunately or media could possibly ask him for the reasoning behind it. SMI has had a history of just changing tracks on a whim without much communication. https://t.co/eD9JcVY3fp — Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) August 16, 2019
For the last 2 months @NASCAR and it’s drivers have done a amazing job of communicating what should be done to the track surfaces to help the racing. The results have been very good thus far. Let’s hope that continues — Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) August 16, 2019
These are informational tweets as well, not complaining ones. Obviously we are fast just the way it is 🏁 — Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) August 16, 2019
With lap times in the 15-17 second range, everyone is going to have to go to the bottom of the race track to get around Thunder Valley. Where this year is different than the golden years, there’s way more downforce so now everyone can hold it to the bottom even easier now, especially with the PJ1 compound on the surface.
It’s going to be hard to get to the cars in front with dirty air and more downforce. If everyone is running the same racing line, lapped traffic is going to make this race interesting.
The drivers though feel like the track should have told them before they showed up this weekend that they were going to alter the top groove.