Drivers skeptical of Bristol changes

Updated: August 24, 2012, 7:20 PM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Kyle Busch didn't need many words to evaluate the surface change made at Bristol Motor Speedway in an attempt to bring beating and banging back to the half-mile track after the spring race.

"It's terrible," Busch said on Friday. "That's about it."

That's probably not what Speedway Motorsports Inc. chairman Bruton Smith wanted to hear. He had the top groove grinded in April in an effort to give drivers less room to work and possibly bring back the bump-and-run move it took to pass before progressive banking was added in 2007.

That didn't happen in Wednesday night's Truck Series race where they ran two and three wide. Many are skeptical the changes will have the desired effect in Saturday night's Sprint Cup race.

"I don't think what they did to the track really is going to make that much more significant," Jeff Gordon said of the bump-and-run move. "Unless they go back and make the groove on the bottom the preferred line -- it's hard to re-create what they had there before -- it's going to be hard to make that bump and run be significant.''

Many say the second groove right below where the grinding ended is the fastest way around the track.

"Really, the track is the same," Martin Truex Jr. said. "It's just that very outside groove through the middle of the corners that you really don't want to get on, and it's pretty slippery."

Smith ordered the grinding after about half of the 160,000 seats were sold for the spring race and following a survey that showed a majority of fans wanted a return to the beating and banging that once made Bristol the toughest ticket in NASCAR.

Smith said he will reserve judgment on whether further changes will be made to the track until after Saturday's race.

Busch didn't need to wait.

"I watched the Truck race," he said.

Asked what he learned, Busch said, "Nobody passed anybody."

Timothy Peters won, leading all 200 laps.

But not everybody was ready to rush to judgment.

"I can't really tell until we get out there and race," Carl Edwards said. "I haven't raced on the track yet, so I just don't know."

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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