BRISTOL, Tenn. — Brad Keselowski makes no excuses when it comes to asking how Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers will handle Bristol Motor Speedway in the Food City 500.
“We’re supposed to be the best, so we’ll have to figure it out,” he said even before rain postponed the race from Sunday to Monday.
The rain that swept into the area around the .526-mile short track late Saturday and stuck around all day Sunday will make that even more difficult than Keselowski first imagined earlier in the weekend.
The concrete track already was presenting the Monster Energy drivers with a unique set of challenges – not only because of the changing weather, but also because of the VHT adhesive that has been applied to the bottom groove at the track. Now that the race has been rescheduled for 1 p.m. ET Monday (live on FOX), there is even more uncertainty.
“It’s changing,” Keselowski had said in between Cup practices on Saturday. “The surface was real slick and then it was really grippy and then it started to slicken back up. It’s going to be an evolving-surface race, so that just means it’s going to be tough.”
Some drivers had expressed concern at the amount of tire marbles accumulating in and around the top groove of the track, making it difficult to run a high line outside of the lower groove enhanced by the VHT.
“It’s changing faster than I can keep up with it,” admitted Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 Ford for Team Penske. “Nothing ever surprises me, but the tire plays a lot into it. It’s got a lot of marbles.
“It’s kind of the opposite of Martinsville. At Martinsville, the second groove kind of came in because there were no marbles and at Bristol the last few years there haven’t been a lot of marbles — and now we have marbles.”
Keselowski’s advice to himself and his fellow drivers: deal with it.
“It’s just part of the game,” he said. “That’s part of the challenge of being a race car driver that I try to explain to people that are maybe not familiar with the sport on a day-to-day basis.
“Even though we make left-hand turns for 34 of the 36 races, it’s entirely different every week. Small little variables like the track configuration and the tire combination require drastic differences in driving style and techniques. The ability to be good at all of them is what makes you great and what makes this sport so challenging.”
He also said the resulting action on the track, while unpredictable for the drivers, should be entertaining for race fans. He added that Monday’s race likely will be “full of things we’ve never seen before, which usually means the field is privy to making a lot of mistakes, a lot of action, a lot of wrecks — and that’s not always a bad thing.”
He added that drivers really have no right to complain about whether or not there should be one preferred lane at a track like Bristol, as opposed to multiple lanes.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I think when we went to double-file restarts (in 2009) I think we said, ‘To be damned with parity and fairness,’ “ Keselowski said. “Those days are gone and now it’s just about when you don’t have the preferred lane, you’ve got to make the most of it and you’ve got to try to get through it with the smallest penalty possible. When you do have the preferred lane, you’ve got to eat.
“That’s just become part of this sport. It’s not really about being fair. It’s not meant to be a fair sport, just a sport.”