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Jimmie Johnson suggests Bristol’s treatment to surface be used by other tracks

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race - Practice

BRISTOL, TN - AUGUST 19: Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Kobalt Chevrolet, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 19, 2016 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

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BRISTOL, Tenn. — Could Bristol Motor Speedway provide a blueprint for some tracks to enhance the racing?

After consulting with some drivers, Bristol Motor Speedway officials “polished” the lower groove in hopes of improving the racing this weekend. Track officials had VHT, which is used in drag racing to help those cars gain traction, applied to the lower groove.

Jimmie Johnson says maybe this change can be used at other tracks that struggle to create multi-groove racing.

“I think it’s awesome,’’ Johnson said before Friday’s first practice. “I feel that we’ve worked on rules packages for decades. We’ve all come to an agreement that the new asphalt going down just doesn’t age as quickly, so anything we can do to help that to put on better racing.

“I think the tracks have a responsibility in the type of racing that goes on. Hopefully, we have a good performance here. It seems like a simple and easy thing to do and just to create a changed environment on the track will create multiple lines and better racing.

“I know it sounds crazy, but if you pick a mile-and-a-half (track) that is boring and we don’t have an outside lane, you put down a 2- or 3-foot wide strip … the middle groove or the high line, you’ll see people all over the race track chasing that traction.’’

Johnson is not alone. Carl Edwards thinks something like this could work at other tracks.

“I think anything you can do to either the surface or the cars to make it tougher or more interesting I think is great,’' he said Friday.

This change was done because previous changes made the high groove the best line and drivers raced there. With it difficult to pass on the low side, single-groove racing became more evident and fans complained.

Bristol made the changes in part to make the lower groove more relevant and possibly return the bump-and-run tactic so often used at Bristol but not seen as often in the past.

Wednesday’s Camping World Truck race saw much of the field run on the bottom but some could run in the middle or higher groove. If that continues, it would give drivers options to get around competitors.

Johnson said he never thought of the VHT idea, giving credit to other drivers who had raced on something similar at Bristol years before for the suggestion.

“Tony (Stewart) and Dale (Earnhardt Jr.) … have all done it before and really enjoyed it,’’ Johnson said.

“My whole angle has been to create tire wear. Now I’m rethinking it. Now if we can get little strips of grip around the race track to create multiple lanes, why not?’’

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