The Frontstretch: Race Trax: Sharpie Mini 300 by Amy Henderson -- Thursday March 23, 2006

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Race Trax: Sharpie Mini 300

Amy Henderson · Thursday March 23, 2006


On Track
The Sharpie Mini 300 is the sixth race on the 35-race NASCAR Busch Series Schedule. The Busch Series will visit the .533-mile Bristol Motor Speedway twice in 2006-they’ll return to run under the lights in late August. Bristol has hosted two Busch Series races each year since 1992; however, this is the first time the series will race for 300 laps. The track is a high-banked concrete true oval track with 36 degrees of banking in the corners and 16 degrees on the short (650 feet) straightaways. The field will include 2005 polesitter Carl Edwards and race winner Kevin Harvick.

44 teams will compete for 43 starting spots for Sunday, with the top 30 in car owner points guaranteed a starting position. Qualifying runs consist of two laps, with the fastest lap setting a team’s time. The entry list includes 12 full time Nextel Cup drivers. The Busch Series qualifying record at Bristol is 127.132 mph, set by Greg Biffle in 2004.

The points battle in the Busch Series reads largely like a Nextel Cup leaderboard, with the top five positions being held by full-time Cup drivers. Leader Kevin Harvick holds a 17-point advantage over J.J. Yeley. The top five is rounded out by Jamie McMurray, Clint Bowyer, and Denny Hamlin. The top Busch regular is Jason Leffler in sixth, and Busch-only drivers Burney Lamar and Jon Wood are in eighth and ninth.

What To Expect
Bristol Motor Speedway is quite possibly the most popular track on the NASCAR circuit, and the racing is the reason why. The track has the highest banking of any track in NASCAR, and that makes it fast. Drivers have likened racing at Bristol to racing inside a cereal bowl, it’s that tight and restrictive.

Mix a short track, young drivers with little experience, veteran drivers with little patience, and laps that take just over fifteen seconds, and you have a recipe for caution flags. Expect a lot of them, and a lot of banged-up racecars, but not as much attrition as the larger tracks have. This means that there is traffic virtually everywhere around the track almost as soon as the green flag drops. A full field at Bristol takes up a full half the track behind the pace car. Tempers will flare, so don’t be surprised to see a little good old-fashioned retaliation, or a win by bump and run.

Who to Watch
Bristol tends to favor veterans, whose experience will remind them when to be aggressive and when to avoid trouble in the making. Kevin Harvick won this race one year ago with aggressive patience, and Harvick’s old-school style racing makes him a favorite to repeat, along with last week’s winner, Jeff Burton. Greg Biffle would love to add Bristol to his resume and should have a strong car to try to do just that with. Reed Sorenson finished third one year ago and has gained considerable experience in that year. This is also one of those tracks that driving can outshine equipment on, and Busch Series regulars would love nothing more than to out duel their Cup counterparts. Jason Keller has a win, and his three poles tie for most at the track. Kenny Wallace has more top-ten finishes at Bristol than any other Busch Series driver ever with eighteen-do not expect his recent intermediate track woes to carry over this week.

Did You Know:
-The record for most Busch Series wins at Bristol is just four-and is held by occasional Nextel Cup entrant Morgan Shepherd?

-More races have been won from the pole at Bristol than from any other starting position? Seven times the winner has finished where he started.

-The deepest in the field a winner has had to race from is 28th?

You Don’t Say"¦
"The Bristol race is exciting for fans but for drivers and car owners it’s more frustrating than anywhere else we go because most times it’s a crash fest. Its like motorcycles racing in a barrel." -NASCAR veteran/Busch Series rookie John Andretti on Bristol

"Bristol is like no other track we go to. 43 cars on a half-mile track makes for some nonstop action packed racing. You have to be on top of your game every second of the race and know what’s going on around you every lap. Everyone is beating and banging at each other and its tough to keep your patience at times. You definitely need to be in the right mind set when you get in the driver’s seat for this race." ""driver Jason Leffler on the importance of attitude at Bristol

"You just have to leave your emotions at home. You’ve always got people around you, either in front of you or behind you, so it’s very difficult to get clean racetrack to race on. You’ve just got to pay attention and hope for the best. You’ve got to expect the unexpected at Bristol." ""driver Kyle Busch on strategy at Bristol

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Contact Amy Henderson

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