NASCAR returns to the magical bull-ring with the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tenn., on March 17. BMS is the iconic 0.533 – mile concrete oval with 14 degree banking originally built on 100 acres that somewhat resembles ancient sporting venues. .
BMS is not as historic as the original Roman Coliseum, but it has a fast past endeared in the hearts of many NASCAR fans. It has a tower of grand stands seating about 160,000 and certainly mimics one tall structure from antiquity.
Modern day fans not in those seats can view Sunday’s action at 1 p.m. on FOX.
As the top-five NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers prepared for 266.5 grueling miles of bumping and banging, they shared their thoughts about the race. Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowksi, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards were at no loss for words.
Jimmie Johnson and team are back at the top, a familiar spot for the No. 48 team. Sometimes fans and teams might wonder which ones are the machines—Jimmie, Chad and team or Hendrick Motorsport’s fleet of No. 48 Chevrolets.
Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet)
“I think the mechanical aspects will help the cars at Bristol,” Johnson said. “The last time there we were very curious about the grinding and what would happen and what wouldn’t. The track just changed in some ways and we will just go back and get in a rhythm and see what happens. For the longest time we were not competitive at that track and now we’re in the mix and I’m really happy about that.”
Brad Keselowski is off to a good start defending his 2012 NSCS championship crown. The No.2 Penske Racing team is now in Ford equipment and seems to have adjusted with precision.
Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Ford)
“Bristol to me is a man’s racetrack and I respect that place so much,” Keselowski said. “ I think it takes a level of respect for it. From day one, the first day I walked in there, I respected it but I also wanted to win there. I wanted to prove to myself and others that I could be the man to win at a man’s racetrack. So it’s always been a challenge to me and it’s one that, for some reason, has taken a piece of me somewhere deep inside and made it rise to the next level.”
Dale Jr. had a decent year in 2012 with the exception of the final weeks of the Chase when a concussion interfered with performance, but getting a top start in 2013 may indicate that 2013 could be very productive.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Chevrolet)
“I love racing at Bristol and short track racing in general,” Earnhardt said. “I look forward to going there every trip. It’s always a tough race, and hopefully, we will come out on top.”
Denny Hamlin’s fine for recent Gen-6 comments has been swiftly resolved by NASCAR and his team. Hamlin and Joe Gibbs Racing can now focus on wins and points
Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Toyota)
“Our Bristol win last summer was one of the biggest victories of my career,” Hamlin said. “No track ever owes you a win, but throughout my career, we had been close at Bristol before, leading late and having something happen. Last year, our car was so good and we kept making it better and better through the night. I knew I had to get to the lead as soon as possible, because if another caution came out, I would’ve had to restart on the bottom, which would’ve been tough. Bristol is such a historic track and it was great to get our FedEx team into victory lane. Now, I want to do it again.”
Carl Edwards and team have put the dismal results from season 2012 behind them by breaking the 70-race win drought early in season 2013.
Carl Edwards (No. 99 Ford)
“We have had a lot of success and a lot of fun over the years at Bristol Motor Speedway in the Truck, Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series,” Edwards said. “I am really excited to go there with Jimmy Fennig and each week I learn more about him and my crew. I think this will be a track where all his experience will pay off and my fast pit crew will be a huge asset. I am really excited and I think we are going to be really good there in our Kellogg’s Ford.”
FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com. Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained from personal interviews or official release materials provided by sanction and team representatives.