Bottom Groove Highlights Excitement for Bristol Night Race

When the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to “The World’s Fastest Half-Mile” at Bristol Motor Speedway, there are a few things that are bound to happen. Feelings are going to be hurt, payback will be served and 40 of the world’s best will be cramped on the high banks of the concrete surface.

The Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race will take place on Saturday evening just past 8:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN. 500 laps with close quarters is bound to produce some great racing. In the opinion of some, that has not been the case in years past. But all of that may be changing this weekend.

Since the speedway underwent a repave in 2007, the “old” Bristol was washed away and the “new” Bristol took charge, angering drivers and fans alike. The old surface had one preferred groove: the bottom. If you wanted to pass somebody, you had to do it the old fashioned way, by using the “bump-and-run.” Drivers like Dale Earnhardt, Terry Labonte, Rusty Wallace, Darrell Waltrip and others who have been victorious at BMS in the past, made that move famous. But after the repave, the preferred groove moved to the top.

The racing has been lackluster ever since cars moved off the bottom of the racetrack. For whatever reason, every time the speedway tried to bring the bottom back, it didn’t work. That was until last week when they made minor modifications by putting four feet of VHT traction compound along the bottom of the turns, making for more grip.

A picture of the bottom groove can be seen in this tweet by Dale Earnhardt Jr.

The substance is what is used by the NHRA dragsters at the starting line to get more grip in the tires. As evidence in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Wednesday evening, won by Ben Kennedy for his first career win, the bottom groove at Bristol is back and better than ever. Cars were glued to the bottom, with the top groove still being present, but also being less desired. Drivers believe the top groove will come in throughout the weekend.

Joey Logano is the defending winner of this race, and Carl Edwards won at the track earlier this season. Kyle Busch is the active leader in wins at this track, but it’s the other Kyle (Larson) that everybody is talking about. He is not only my pick to win this weekend, but will be watched by everybody for three main reasons.

One, he owes AJ Allmendinger some payback after last weekend. Two, he is widely regarded as the driver to always run the high line, no matter the track. William Byron in the NCWTS race was running it and took the lead, only to lose it one corner later for being too high and getting loose. Finally, Larson is on the Chase Bubble and will need a solid run to be relevant in the playoff conversation. A win would negate all that and directly admit him to the postseason.

Kevin Harvick, the Busch brothers and the Joe Gibbs Racing foursome including Martin Truex Jr.will be the favorites this weekend. However, I’ll stick with driver No. 42 of Larson for the win.

Also, the XFINITY Series is in action for the Food City 300 Friday evening at 8:00 p.m. ET on USA.

Enjoy the races this weekend, everyone!