The NASCAR Xfinity Series heats up in Thunder Valley at the .533-mile Bristol Motor Speedway for the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300. SaturdayAfternoon’s race will be the first installment of the Dash 4 Cash, and will introduce the new heat race format announced by NASCAR in January. 42 drivers will be competing for the 40 available spots.
Bristol Motor Speedway is a .533-mile concrete oval, located in northern Tennessee. The corners feature variable banking ranging from 24 to 28 degrees. The straights also feature variable banking, and ranges from six to 10 degrees. The straights are only 650 feet long. The racing surface is 40 feet wide.
Bristol Motor Speedway will be home to the start of the run for the Dash 4 Cash. Heat races will be the format used for these events. Dash 4 Cash will only be held at Bristol, Richmond, Dover, and Indianapolis. Teams will qualify like normal for the Coors Light Pole Award. Drivers who qualified in odd-numbered positions will race in the first heat race, and even-numbered position qualifiers will race in the second heat race. The winners of the heat races will start on the front row for the main event. Lane choice for the start of the main event will go to the driver who had the faster speed in qualifying. The rest of the field will be set by the finishing order of the heat races. Heat races will go their scheduled distances without NASCAR overtime. If a driver wrecks in their respective heat, they can only work on their car until the checkered flag waves for that heat. For the main event, teams can change tires, take fuel, and make any adjustments before the main event. Wayne Auton, NASCAR Xfinity Series director told NASCAR.com, "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.” If a driver wins multiple Dash 4 Cash bonuses, they will be eligible for the new Chase format, if they remain eligible per NASCAR rulebook.
67 races have been held at Bristol Motor Speedway for the NASCAR Xfinity Series. 47 drivers have won a pole at Bristol. There have been 42 different race winners. There have been nine races where a driver as won from the pole position. In 2012, Elliott Sadler sat a race record with a speed of 94.74 mph. In 2004, Greg Biffle set a record pole speed at 127.132 mph. Seven NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers will be competing in Saturday’s race.
Drivers are excited for Bristol.
In a release, Ryan Reed, driver of the No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, talks about the heat race factor on Saturday. “I think all of us drivers are really anxious, but excited about how the heat races will play out at Bristol this weekend. Adding this new element into the XFINITY Dash 4 Cash program is huge and could have major points implications if we do well, or not-so-well. We have really been working on our short-track program and I think we have a shot at qualifying for the Dash 4 Cash and having a good points day. I’m also excited to hang out with fans as we kick off the Lilly Diabetes #IDriveMyHealth Show Car Tour and hear how fans are taking care of their health to manage or prevent diabetes.”
Elliott Sadler, driver of the No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevy, explains why he loves going to Bristol. “I love coming to Bristol Motor Speedway. It’s one of my favorite tracks and provides a very unique atmosphere. The heat races are going to be interesting, so we will see how that all plays out. Bristol is a place we know we have a chance to win.”
Kyle Busch, last week’s winner at Texas Motor Speedway, explains the challenges of Bristol. “I think the most challenging aspect of Bristol is just how difficult it is to transition through from the straightaways to the corners, back to the straightaways, and have your car set up in order to do all that. Sometimes you can be really loose getting in, or you can be really tight in the middle – you just seem to never be able to get a good-flowing car that works well there. Drivers have to do a lot of manipulation on the racetrack with their car in order to try to make the best of it.”
The NASCAR Xfinity hits the track at 12:30 pm eastern on Friday, April 15, for their first practice session, only on Fox Sports 1. The Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 will begin at 12:30 pm eastern on Saturday, April 16, on Fox Sports 1 and Performance Racing Network.
Friday, April 15
12:30 p.m., NASCAR Xfinity Series practice, FS1
3 p.m., NASCAR Xfinity Series final practice, FS1
Saturday, April 16
9:30 a.m., NASCAR Xfinity Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying, FS1
Noon, NASCAR RaceDay: Xfinity, FS1
12:30 p.m., NASCAR Xfinity Series: Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300. FS1
Matt Kenseth added himself to the list of 2015 winners with a victory in the Food City 500 in Support of Steve Byrnes. After taking the lead prior to the race’s final caution, Kenseth maintained the top spot in a green-white-checkered finish.
Kenseth’s win at the 0.533-mile track comes 51 races since his last triumph in September 2013 at Loudon. The win also adds him into the championship hunt with a spot in the Chase Grid.
In Victory Lane, Kenseth spoke about how the win meant a lot to him after going winless in 2014.
“Last year was tough and not winning again this year had been tough,” said Kenseth. “I’ve been trying to put myself in a position to finally get one.”
Jimmie Johnson worked his way up through the field to finish second after a couple of incidents earlier in the night. Jeff Gordon, who at one point had been two laps down, finished in third. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Ryan Newman closed out the top five. The top five was the first one for Stenhouse since the Food City 500 a year ago.
Rain played a factor throughout the day at Bristol. The race began an hour and a half late due to a rain delay. Once the race went green, the Sprint Cup Series field raced for 22 laps until a collision between Team Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, which brought out the day’s first caution.
The caution soon turned into a lengthy red flag as rain made its presence at the track. Four hours later, the race resumed as a Bristol night race.
Before the race resumed, a driver change was made on the No. 11 team as Erik Jones substituted Denny Hamlin. Hamlin sat out the remainder of the race due to neck spasms.
“I just pulled something in my neck and upper back on Lap 12, the pain was bothering me quite a bit,” said Hamlin.
Jones, who made his first Cup Series appearance, would not have his debut count as his official Cup debut since he did not start the race. Hamlin will still receive points since he started the race.
Kurt Busch’s crew chief Tony Gibson also left the race during the rain delay due to kidney stones.
The race at Bristol turned into a rough one for some of the 2015 race winners.
Kevin Harvick, who went into Bristol as the championship leader, was involved in an incident on Lap 311 that sent him behind the wall. Harvick had led 184 laps.
Harvick, along with Logano and Martin Truex, Jr., went into Bristol with top 10 finishes from the seven races prior to Bristol. Their top 10-finish streak came to an end after each driver had been involved in wrecks.
Heading out of Bristol, the Cup Series now moves onto Richmond for a second straight week of short track racing. Short track racing and tempers will continue once more under the lights on Saturday night.
Miss Coors Light, Rachel Rupert, is the fan’s connection to the fastest driver every weekend during the NASCAR season and presenting a trophy is not all she does! Rachel’s weekend starts earlier than most, when she hits local markets to promote the Coors Light brand at restaurants, bars, and Walmarts.
From a young age Rachel Rupert has been a fan of sports, especially NASCAR, attending her first race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Being from the Volunteer State of Tennessee, Rupert has her own opinion of the news about Bristol Motor Speedway hosting a battle between the Volunteers and Virginia Tech Hookies football teams in 2016.
“I am so glad you are asking me about this! I am a diehard Tennessee fan and we have been begging for this for years,” Rupert said. “When they finally announced [the game] I was so excited! I can’t believe it. It is great for both schools to come together, since they have a lot of diehard fans!”
When asked if she was going to be at the game, Rachel said, “I will be there, I will have my Coors Light hat on and my Tennessee jersey on, can’t wait for it!” Rachel is not the only person to say that they will be there, and it is going to be interesting to see how the good folks at Bristol Motor Speedway pull off putting a football field inside the World’s Last Great Coliseum.
The role of Miss Coors Light is not about just “looking pretty,” it is about spreading the brand of NASCAR and Coors Light across the nation. “People say that all the time, all you have to do is stand there and take pictures, and it’s like no, it’s one part of the job,” Rachel said. “I am a face for Coors Light and a face for the sport. What comes with that is doing interviews. Anywhere you can get Coors Light, I am there.”
There are several steps to get the job position of Miss Coors Light, and it is just like any other job application process. “I was with an agency that was looking for someone that knew about the sport, and could go to the races, and said, hey I can do that, and interviewed for the position,” Rachel said.
“They narrowed it down to a couple of girls, and everyone asks me if it was like a pageant and it was a real job interview in Chicago. After the interview was done they said they wanted me to do it. I have been Miss Coors Light for three years now; it’s the best job in the world. I love it,” Mississippi native, Rachel Rupert said.
Being the one to interview the pole winner each week, Miss Coors Light talks to a lot of drivers, but we wanted to know who the best driver in the garage to interview was. The answer may not surprise you.
“Carl Edwards hands down, he is great at interviews, he can talk for days, or can get in whatever he needs to say but can joke around – he’s a great guy,” Rachel Rupert said. If you have every watched how Edwards does his interviews, he really can say just about anything but at the same time make some sponsor plugs. There was one time he won and an interviewer asked him what he was going to do and Edwards said, “I am going to go home and relax and get a Subway sandwich.”
If you are at the track make sure to take part in Coors Light’s recycling program by visiting of their booths around the track and in the campgrounds. With so much waste at the races, Coors Light is trying to help cut down the waste and make the environment a little better – and you get rewarded too!
“A lot of people consuming beer and we need something for those guys to come to us and say hey we got these that need to be recycled,” Miss Coors Light, Rachel said. “We have a tent we set up, and we have a couple girls that run it. I make appearances there throughout the weekend.
“It is so important to recycle, especially at the track. If you come by we will give you a recycling bin that you can have at your tailgate and you bring it back and we take care of recycling it for you,” Rachel went on and said, “You could get a Coors Light flag, shirt, hat, or koozie.”
This weekend Rachel is already at the track and getting ready to hand out another Coors Light Pole award to today’s fastest qualifier at Martinsville Speedway. “Everyone should come out to Martinsville for qualifying because somewhere like Martinsville it is really important to start out front by getting the Coors Light Pole Award, and it is will help you have a better race,” Miss Coors Light, Rachel Rupert said.
You can stay up to speed and get inside behind the scenes access to all things Miss Coors Light by “liking” her Facebook page -> www.Facebook.com/MissCoorsLight.