Harrison Burton and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane team are headed into Saturday’s Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway not exactly sure how the race will play out other than it is expected to be a crowd pleaser.
The 500-lap race will be the first Cup Series event contested on the high-banked, half-mile concrete racing surface since the introduction earlier this year of an all-new car. The first Cup race of the season at Bristol was run with a dirt surface atop the concrete.
Brian Wilson, crew chief of the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Mustang, said he’s looking forward to racing at Bristol and the challenges that come with it.
“Bristol always gets everyone in the industry excited, and personally I’m no different,” he said. “It’s certainly in my top three for favorite tracks.”
He said the information the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team gathered at Bristol in April, won’t be any help this time around.
“We were able to get a top-20 finish in the first race there, but there’s absolutely nothing we can take from the dirt race that can help us this weekend,” Wilson said, adding that nonetheless he and the team are doing all they can to be ready for Saturday night’s 500-lapper. “In our prep this week a majority of the discussion has centered around how the track will change throughout the weekend.”
A lot of the changes will be related to NASCAR’s application of PJ-1 to the bottom groove of the race track.
“How well this added grip lasts through the race is the first question,” Wilson said. “Historically you’ve wanted to run in the PJ-1 when the tires are new. As the run progresses you’ll move up the track. At times the high groove will rubber in to a point where you’ll start to move back down on a really long run.
“Lately our Goodyear tires have put down a decent amount of rubber so we expect that this may be the case on Saturday night.”
But Wilson pointed out that to be successful will require more than just staying in the fastest lane especially when it comes to dealing with race traffic, which is common at Bristol.
“Harrison and I have talked about the best ways to be versatile, both with the car setup and in his driving style,” he said. “We know that to have a good night we’ll need to run where the other cars aren’t and be aggressive in making passes.
“The action happens so quickly at Bristol that there isn’t a lot of time to think through situations. Doing our homework during the week will hopefully allow us to read and react to anything that’s thrown at the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford team on Saturday night.”
Practice for the Bass Pro Shops Night Race is set for Friday at 4:35 p.m. to be immediately followed by qualifying.
Saturday’s race is scheduled to start just after 7:30 p.m., with TV coverage on USA Network.
Stage breaks are planned for Laps 125 and 250.