Long: Bristol race was unlike anything seen in years at historic track

Bristol Race Delivers Unprecedented Thrills in Historic Track’s Most Memorable Event in Decades

In Bristol, Tennessee, the sight of white smoke billowing from Chase Elliott’s car’s right front wheel well was a spectacle reminiscent of Yellowstone’s Old Faithful. This occurred during a Sunday drive that put both teams and tires to the test at the Bristol Motor Speedway.

After securing an eighth-place finish, Elliott’s first top 10 of the season, he shared his thoughts on the race. He found it immensely enjoyable, noting that the outcome was more in the drivers’ hands than usual. Elliott appreciated the strategic element introduced by tire management, finding it both fun and refreshing.

He expressed hope that there wouldn’t be an overreaction to the day’s events. The race at Bristol was extraordinary, marking a departure from what had been seen at this track in years, if ever. The rate at which tires wore down was so significant that NASCAR had to provide teams with an extra set. The lead changed a record 54 times, often as a result of leaders managing their tire wear rather than pushing for speed. Lap times, usually around 16 seconds, occasionally ballooned to about 18 seconds. The race saw cars running side by side, reminiscent of Daytona or Talladega races.

Despite the unexpected tire wear observed during practice and qualifying, most teams anticipated that the track would rubber in and reduce tire wear. However, this did not occur, leaving NASCAR and Goodyear puzzled. John Probst, NASCAR’s senior vice president and chief racing development officer, mentioned the uncertainty surrounding the performance of the resin versus the PJ1 traction compounds.

This year, NASCAR opted for resin over PJ1, alongside the introduction of wet weather tires at Bristol. Testing in February revealed that PJ1 became slick when wet, reducing traction significantly. The switch to resin, which has been used at other tracks without issue, was made in response.

Probst assured that NASCAR would closely examine the situation, working with Goodyear and teams, and taking into account the drivers’ feedback, who have been advocating for more tire wear.

The race also came at a time when drivers were calling for more horsepower to improve racing, especially at short tracks. Denny Hamlin, after securing his 52nd career Cup victory and his second consecutive win at this track, echoed Elliott’s sentiment, urging against overreaction.

Hamlin felt a deep sense of pride in this victory, acknowledging his significant role in the outcome. Meanwhile, reigning Cup champion Ryan Blaney, who finished 16th, speculated that the tire used might have been different from the previous fall, despite Goodyear’s assertion that it was the same compound.

Chris Gabehart, Hamlin’s crew chief, saw the race as a learning opportunity for the sport. He emphasized the importance of embracing the challenge and the strategic decisions it forced upon drivers and crew chiefs, rather than criticizing Goodyear.

The race at Bristol delivered a memorable experience, reminiscent of racing on an old, worn-out short track, according to Elliott. While suggesting there might be a better balance to strike, Elliott admitted to enjoying the race thoroughly.