The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers head to “Thunder Valley” this weekend and will take on the daunting Bristol Motor Speedway. The two annual stops at the .533-mile Tennessee oval are always two of the most exciting races of the year, because when you fit 40 cars on a short bullring, it typically leads to carnage.
With that being said, what is acceptable in terms of “bumping and banging” your way around the short track? When do you give and take and when do you send a message?
“Well, I believe that, on a short track – any track – that you need to get next to them,” Danica Patrick said of contact with other cars at Bristol. “I mean, I think you have to be able to get runs and get inside. Now, if they cut you off more than once or twice, then you start just putting a bumper to them and taking the air off the spoiler and you just have to make them understand that you know you’ve been patient and that you aren’t going to be patient anymore.”
“I enjoy it. I mean, I don’t mind some beating and banging out there. I don’t mind pushing your way around a little bit. It just happens. It’s just the nature of short tracks when you’re running really close to one another. You put 40 cars out on a track the size of Bristol and you’re filling up a lot of the track. The short tracks are conducive to close racing since aerodynamics don’t come into play quite as much.”
As far as being aggressive, Patrick says that, “every single one of us is going to go as absolutely hard as possible. There’s never a plan to back off or go easy or anything like that, other than if you are saving fuel out there on a strategy at the end of the race. You always go as fast as you can, all the time.”
Her Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kurt Busch agrees, but says with the new added stages to the races now, that maybe it’s time to be more calculated with when/how you bump and bang throughout the course of the race on Sunday.
“It depends on who it is,” Busch said about when to bump/bang. “It depends what’s on the line, what time of the race it is. We’ll see. With these new segments this year, you might throw a door ding in there, a donut on somebody trying to get a stage win. But then, you can’t risk too much and you don’t want damage for the rest of the race that will hurt you long term. So, it’s a balance. But, honestly, it’s good old short-track racing. There should be no problem in it.”
What about if you accidentally get into someone? With a short track and 39 of your closest competitors around you, it’s pretty easy to make a small mistake and accidentally get into another car when you didn’t mean to. Do you make things right early or do you drive in your rear view mirror?
“Again, it depends upon the circumstances, but, yes,” Busch said of trying to make things right if you get into someone by accident. “Usually you’re trying to keep your eye on the main prize, which is victory lane at the end of the day. If you have a run-in early in the race, that guy is going to be trying to find you, or you’re looking over your shoulder. If somebody did me wrong, you’re going to be after that guy. But there are still bigger prizes out there.”