What you need to know about Saturday’s Xfinity heat races at Bristol
The two heat races that will precede Saturday’s Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway will have a potential $100,000 twist.
To inject additional excitement into the four-race Dash 4 Cash series, NASCAR will be going back to its roots with a pair of heat races to set the lineup for the main event.
While NASCAR has used heat races in the Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora (Ohio) Speedway, this is the first time heat races have been implemented in the Xfinity Series.
Here’s what you need to know:
* Each heat race will be 50 laps with no overtime. The main event will be 200 laps, with the potential for overtime.
* Odd-number car qualifiers (first, third, fifth, etc.) will compete in the first heat race, while even-number qualifiers (second, fourth, sixth, etc.) will compete in the second heat race.
* How a driver finishes in the heat races will determine their starting position in the main event. The front row will be made up of the winners of each heat race. The fastest of those two from qualifying will have lane choice.
* The top two finishers -- who score points in the Xfinity Series -- in each heat race will make up the four-driver field eligible for the $100,000 prize. The driver who finishes the best among those four wins the money.
* If a car wrecks or blows an engine during its heat and cannot make repairs prior to the start of the main event, the team will not race in the main. No backup cars.
* Heat races will also take place at the other three events on the Dash 4 Cash schedule: Richmond (April 23), Dover (May 14) and the finale at Indianapolis (July 23).
* The distance of the heat races and the main events at all four tracks are different: Bristol (50-lap heat races, 200-lap main event), Richmond (35-lap heat races, 140-lap main event), Dover (40-lap heat races, 200-lap main event) and Indianapolis (20-lap heat races, 60-lap main event).
* If a driver earns two Dash 4 Cash honors, that is equal to a regular-season race win for Xfinity Series Chase eligibility.
* If a driver wins the first three Dash 4 Cash prizes and then wins the Indianapolis race outright, they will earn an additional $600,000.
Here’s what drivers and NASCAR officials are saying about the new format:
Brendan Gaughan: “This is one that nobody in this series in this sport has ever done. Yeah, there are late model races and dash races, but not in this format and this style. I’m excited to try it. I don’t know if it will be good or bad. I don’t care if it’s good or bad. Let’s get there and see what it does. If I win $100,000 at Bristol, I’m going to say ‘I love it.’ If I don’t, I’m going to say, ‘Eh, let’s go to next week and see how it goes.’ I think that’s a very cool thing.”
Elliott Sadler: “It’s kind of nerve-racking knowing that you can wreck your car in the heat race and can’t even race in the feature, so that’s kind of a tough concept. Of all the places to put it at, to put it at Bristol was a good idea on Xfinity’s and NASCAR’s part.”
Erik Jones: “I’m most curious about how people are going to race, knowing that you can’t go to a backup car before the feature or the main. So I’m interested to see how people kind of handle that fact.”
Daniel Suarez: “It’s going to be different - a lot of people are going to be racing, a lot of people are going to be just being smart to be safe for the main race. I’m going to go out and race.”
Ty Dillon: “I’m super excited about it. I grew up dirt racing and heat racing was always a part of the format of how we competed. It will be interesting to see how it plays out, but we’ve already started to strategize for this race. It’s unique in a sense that the main race is a lot shorter. There definitely is a lot less room for error. We’re going to have to be perfect. Qualify well. Make the right adjustments. I’m really looking forward to the next two races with this format.”
Brandon Jones: “I think you’ll see a lot of drivers go for it in the heat races and get the Dash 4 Cash qualifying positions. It’s a really neat format for us Xfinity Series drivers. I’m excited to see how it plays out. There’s going to be a lot of action in the heat races, and I know the main event won’t disappoint.”
Ryan Reed: “I grew up heat racing, racing late models out in California. I haven’t run a heat race in probably four or five years, so I’m really excited to kind of get back to that and get back to the roots a little bit, and I think all the fans are as well and I’m sure all the media is as well. Bristol is a tough track regardless and then you throw in heat races and give us one more opportunity to go out there and tear up the car before the end of the race is gonna be challenging.”
Xfinity Series managing director Wayne Auton: “This is a great opportunity for the back half of the garage as much as it is the front half. This gives them an opportunity to really go for some good money and they feel like they got a shot at it.”
Auton on tires and fuel: “You have to start the heat on the tires you qualified on and you have to start the heat on the fuel (from qualifying). No one should run out of fuel with the amount of laps we’re running.”