A trio of top NASCAR Cup Series drivers participated in a closed Goodyear test session Tuesday at Bristol Motor Speedway in preparation for the upcoming Bass Pro Shops Night Race, Sept. 14-16.
Teams representing all three manufacturers were present at the test, including Ryan Blaney at the controls of the No. 12 Team Penske Ford, Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain in the No. 1 Chevy and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Ty Gibbs, driving the No. 54 Toyota.
Blaney sent a tweet early in the morning before the three cars got on track that gave some fans their first glimpse of the return of the concrete to BMS. He says he enjoys racing Bristol in either configuration.
“I enjoy having the dirt race here or concrete, I don’t have a preference to be honest,” Blaney said. “I think the dirt race got better every year. I thought last year’s dirt race was good and this year’s was even better. The track was super wide and slick and really racy. You could put dirt or asphalt on it and I would be here either way. I just thought it was funny walking around wondering where they put all of (the dirt).”
Blaney says as far as tests go, he is enjoying this assignment. Blaney has earned a Craftsman Truck Series victory and an Xfinity Series win at Bristol, but he is still searching for his first Cup victory on the iconic track.
“This place is a neat race track,” Blaney said. “I loved coming here watching Dad (Dave Blaney) a lot, especially at the Night Race. It’s really cool coming here as a kid and seeing the atmosphere around this race track. I’ve come close in the Cup car a couple of times and haven’t been able to close it out. We had a great start of the race last year and had a blow out on the right front tire and ruined our night. It’s really cool to have a couple of wins in Truck and Xfinity here, but now it’s just a matter of trying to finish out with the big one.”
Chastain said he was also having a blast getting to log some extra laps at the .533-mile high-banked oval where so much NASCAR history has been made.
“They’re getting all the information and I’m just getting to drive it, so selfishly I’m just having fun getting to drive the car around the concrete Bristol,” Chastain said. “General Motors is capturing more data than I know what to do with.”
Chastain says these test sessions are important to work with Goodyear to identify the best tire compound for the upcoming Bass Pro Shops Night Race, which is also the first cut-off race in the NASCAR Cup Series Round of 16 Playoffs.
The teams had to dodge spotty showers throughout the day.
“This feels like a Saturday afternoon trying to get our races in back home with all this rain,” Chastain said. “It rains everyday now starting in June in South Florida. However, this track’s a whole lot faster and there’s a whole lot more grip and we have more people working on the race car for sure.
“It’s fun just getting to throw changes at the car with really no need to go fast. Of course we want to go fast and have the fastest car out of the three, but we aren’t here to set the track record today; we are here to gather track information. It’s cool to make changes on the car and try different tires for Goodyear. Some don’t feel much different and they are built different. Some are built different and they feel different. For me I’ve done a few of these tire tests for Goodyear and it’s an evolution of learning of how best to steer the series and what tires we will have when we get back here in the fall.”
In the NASCAR Cup Series Bass Pro Shops Night Race (Sept. 16, 7:30 p.m., USA Network, PRN Radio), you’ll get to see all of your favorite drivers like Blaney, Chastain and Gibbs racing hard to advance in the Playoffs. Others to watch include Bristol dominator Kyle Busch, defending Night Race winner Chris Buescher, fan-favorites Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson, as well as title challengers Tyler Reddick, Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick.
Sparks are sure to fly in the Food City 300, as NASCAR Xfinity Series favorites Justin Allgaier, Josh Berry, Austin Hill, Parker Kligerman, Sammy Smith and Chandler Smith will be trying to get their post-season run off to a strong start (Sept. 15, 7:30 p.m., USA Network, PRN Radio). Meanwhile, NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt Jr. is entered in his No. 88 Hellmann’s Chevy and will make his first Bristol race appearance since 2017.
In the Craftsman Truck Series, Zane Smith, Ben Rhodes, Carson Hocevar, Corey Heim and Grant Enfinger will battle for the victory Thursday night in the UNOH 200 presented by Ohio Logistics, the opener for the Truck Round of 8 Playoffs (Sept. 14, 9 p.m., FS1, MRN Radio). The rising stars in the ARCA Menards Series also will take on the challenging half-mile bullring in the Bush’s Beans 200 as part of a Thursday night doubleheader (Sept. 14, 6 p.m., FS1, MRN Radio).
For more information, please visit us online at www.bristolmotorspeedway.com or call the BMS ticket sales center at (866) 415-4158.
— Bristol Motor Speedway —