By admin | March 14, 2010
By Richard Allen
The Bristol Motor Speedway offers a set of challenges to race teams unlike any other track on the NASCAR schedule. The tight quarters, steep banking and concrete surface cause crew chiefs to realize the chances of bringing home an undamaged car at the end of a race there are highly unlikely. Add to that the new “have at it” NASCAR policy and the odds of an unscathed machine coming back to the shop are virtually nil.
Kevin Kidd, pit boss for the No. 20 Nationwide Series car of Joe Gibbs Racing, shared his thoughts on the east Tennessee track as his team put the finishing touches on the car they plan to bring to Bristol this weekend. “It’s a very unique track,” he declared.
Bristol requires crews to break some of their own rules in preparation for this race. “We actually bring an intermediate car to Bristol,” Kidd said. “Even though it’s a short track in size, the cars carry a lot more speed through the corners because of the banking. It really requires more of a hybrid between a short track car and an intermediate car.”
Unlike the short tracks with less banking in the turns, Bristol does not place high demand on braking. Thus, the components used to slow the cars are unlike those used at tracks such as Richmond and Phoenix. “We don’t need as much of the cooling ducts and hoses as we would on the other short tracks,” Kidd explained. “All that stuff is unnecessary up there.”
However, there are issues that do have to be considered at Bristol which may not be as much of a factor at other places. “The car wants to travel a tremendous amount,” he said. “We have to make sure there is plenty of clearance under the car so it won’t be bottoming out so hard when it unloads in the turns.”
As if racing at Bristol in and of itself isn’t hard enough on equipment, NASCAR has opened the door to even more difficulties by allowing drivers to do their own “self-policing” on a track already known for rough and tumble action. “In a perfect world it would be nice if guys could not get involved in those scuffles on the track,” Kidd said. “However, if you keep getting pushed around by the same guy you have to defend your honor at some point.
“I’d rather my drivers not do it but if retaliation is needed to keep from having torn up cars every week, I guess that’s the way it has to be.”
Kidd has one other degree of difficulty added to his job that many other crew chiefs do not. He has to work with more than one driver. Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin share the No. 20 JGR Nationwide Toyota. “In a perfect world there would only be one driver, but both of those guys are very talented and great to work with,” he said.
One thing that isn’t a difficulty for Kidd are his bosses. “Joe Gibbs and that whole family are tremendous people,” he declared. “They are very genuine people with a strong set of core values. You couldn’t ask for better people to work for.”
Kevin Kidd and all other NASCAR Nationwide Series crew chiefs have their work cut out for them in Bristol but with talented drivers and a strong organization behind him Kidd has advantages over many of his counterparts.
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Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.
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