2007 BRISTOL TESTING
||Martin Truex Jr.
||Bobby Hamilton Jr.
||Martin Truex Jr.
NASCAR Busch Series Teams Get Their Turn On Bristol's New Surface
BRISTOL, Tenn. (July 24, 2007) – When it comes to experience in the NASCAR Busch Series, few have Jason Keller (#11 CJM Racing Chevy) beat. The 17-year series veteran is closing in on Tommy Houston’s all-time starts record (417) and is only two starts away from tying Dale Jarrett’s Bristol Motor Speedway record. So, after 27 races at “Thunder Valley,” Keller had no problem identifying changes made during the track’s recent resurfacing.
“It’s definitely different,” Keller said. ”There is not as much transition down in the corners, which makes the car more comfortable getting in and should lead itself to side-by-side racing.”
His observations came during a NASCAR Busch Series test at Bristol on Tuesday. Thirty-three teams were at the track testing on the new concrete surface installed after the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race on March 25. Although no major changes were made to the track, variable banking was added to the turns to help smooth the transition to the straightaways. The new surface also eliminated many of the bumps in the track.
“I didn’t believe it was going to be so smooth,” Keller said. “And I honestly didn’t remember it being so rough, until you feel how smooth it is now. “
As more laps are run on the track and the groove widens, more cars are expected to race two- and perhaps three-wide.
Keller doesn’t believe that will change a driver’s preparation for the race.
“I don’t think you can change your approach here because you better go all out, all the time,” he said. “Even if the groove widens out, you’ll still have to go as fast as you can, as hard as you can.
“Typically, the Busch Series race here goes by pretty fast. I don’t think the approach to the race will change but the actual race may change, as far as getting some two-wide and perhaps three-wide racing coming off the corner. But it looks like we’ll see some side-by-side racing.”
Keller’s anticipated 28th start at Bristol will be the most for the 37-year-old at any track. His results are among his best anywhere – he has three poles, one win and 12 top-10 finishes. His win came in 1999, three years before Victory Lane was moved from the middle of the track to the top of the Goodyear building.
“I’ve never been in that Victory Lane, but I have been in Victory Lane at Bristol,” Keller said. “Anytime you’ve been in Victory Lane, you get good vibes coming (back) to the track. I looked at my trophy yesterday when I was in my office and reminisced for a little bit. That’s always nice.”
The Bristol race, on the night of August 24, is one of the highlights of the NASCAR Busch Series schedule. Keller is among the many drivers who enjoy racing at the .533-mile track.
“I’m one of the guys that looks forward to Bristol and always have ever since I came here for the first time,” Keller said. “This is a huge race for us. Anytime you come to a track and there are 100,000 fans, it’s a big race.” As the event draws near, don’t count on Keller to share the information his team learned from the test session.
“I’m going to tell everybody it’s the same old Bristol,” he said with a smile.
* Lap Leaders … Rain showers delayed the test session intermittently throughout the day. As of a rain delay at 4 p.m., Jason Leffler (#38 Great Clips Toyota) had the quickest lap.
A glance at the top morning times:
1. Jason Leffler, #38 Toyota – 16.083 seconds/119.306 mph
2. Kyle Busch, #5 Chevy – 16.100 seconds/119.180 mph
3. Bobby Labonte, #77 Chevy – 16.140 seconds/118.885 mph
4. Dennis Setzer, #24 Chevy – 16.153 seconds/118.789 mph
5. Steve Wallace, #66 Dodge – 16.157 seconds/118.760 mph
What: NASCAR Busch Series testing
Where: Bristol Motor Speedway
Track Layout: 0.533-mile oval
When: Tuesday, July 24
Times: 11 a.m. until 7 p.m.
Who: 33 NASCAR Busch Series teams including drivers Aric Almirola, Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch, Brad Coleman, Erik Darnell, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Bobby Hamilton Jr., Kevin Harvick, Caleb Holman, Jason Keller, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Todd Kluever, Travis Kvapil, Bobby Labonte, Jason Leffler, Stephen Leicht, Ted Musgrave, Ryan Newman, David Ragan, David Reutimann, Scott Riggs, Johnny Sauter, Dennis Setzer, Regan Smith, Reed Sorenson, Brad Teague, Martin Truex Jr., Mike Wallace, Steve Wallace, Scott Wimmer and J.J. Yeley.(NASCAR PR)(7-24-2007)