Matt Kenseth unsure how rain, cool weather will impact Bristol’s treated surface
After its first use last August, NASCAR drivers will get a second chance to race at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend with its track surface treated by VHT in the corners.
A substance used by the NHRA to add grip on its starting lines, VHT was added to the bottom grove for last summer’s night race - which became a day race - in order to improve the competition on the half-mile track. It worked.
The 20 lead changes in the race were the second most at Bristol in the past eight races there. NASCAR recorded 2,454 green-flag passes, ranking fourth at the track since the statistic was first kept in 2005.
But how will the track react to the substance in April over August, especially with the threat of rain looming over the Bristol area all weekend? But most importantly, will the spreading out of the substance higher in the turns make the racing better?
If anyone knows what “old Bristol” was like, it’s Matt Kenseth. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver has made 34 starts in “Thunder Valley” beginning in 2000 and he has four wins, the most recent coming in the 2015 spring race.
Kenseth addressed the repeated application of the substance Wedesday after Joe Gibbs Racing’s sponsorship announcement with Circle K at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
“I went to lunch with (crew chief) Jason (Ratcliff) before we got here, and we got to talking about the fall race a little bit, and I have to go back and watch the whole ending of the race and see how it went,” said Kenseth, who placed 37th with a DNF last August after a Lap 373 crash. “I feel like Bristol, Martinsville and Dover are very sensitive to heat. I think if you get a really cold, overcast day up there and you get all the rain you’re supposed to get, I’m not really sure how it’ll affect it, because sometimes the top never comes all the way in.”
The Food City 500 is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. ET Sunday. The weather site wunderground.com currently forecasts a temperature of 59 degrees with a 57 percent chance of rain at that time.
“It has to get warm enough for the rubber on the tire to pack into the racetrack and then that stuff seems to make a lot of grip,” Kenseth said. “Last year, it seemed to have a lot. It seemed to go away at the end of the race that I recall. But it definitely seemed to open up some grooves and passing, especially on restarts and shorter runs.”