NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Raceday at Bristol: Sunday’s Food City 500

jutter@charlotteobserver.comMarch 15, 2014 

  • Race facts

    Where: Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway

    Track type: .536-mile highly banked, concrete oval

    Race distance: 500 laps or 268 miles

    Weather: High in the low 50s with a 90 percent chance of rain.

    TV: Coverage begins at noon on Fox. Green flag is 1:13 p.m.

    Radio: Performance Racing Network

    Notebook

No happy ending to Hamlin-Logano feud

It was one year ago at Bristol Motor Speedway when Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano encountered their first on-track incident that eventually spilled over into a last-lap wreck the following week at in Fontana, Calif., which left Hamlin with a serious bank injury.

Hamlin missed four Sprint Cup races and struggled much of the season before winning the season finale at Homestead, Fla.

Hamlin said he has struggled with how to handle the incident.

“I'm bitter in ways and in other ways, it's been so long ago and there's so many trials and tribulations between then and now that I think I'm a better person now afterwards,” he said. “I think I'm a better driver now than I was before.

“How do you express how upset you are with someone without punching them? I don’t know how to do that. So you just don’t say anything.”

All-star fan vote underway:Race fans once again vote a driver into this year’s NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. The voting process begins at 8 a.m. Sunday and closes at 7 p.m. Friday, May 16.

Fans can cast their ballots an unlimited number of times to help determine the starting lineup for the race. The driver receiving the highest number of votes among eligible drivers will earn a spot in the all-star race which pays $1 million to the winner.

For the first time, the Sprint Fan Vote will include a sweepstakes awarding one voter a trip for two to any race in the 2014 Chase.

Fans can vote in three ways: on the NASCAR Mobile App, on NASCAR.com or at the Sprint Experience at race tracks.

Custer to debut at Martinsville:NASCAR K&N Pro Series East series regular Cole Custer will attempt to make his first start in the NASCAR Truck Series in the Kroger 250 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on March 29.

Custer, the son of Stewar-Haas Racing executive vice president Joe Custer, won the K&N Pro Series West race at Phoenix on Feb. 27. It was his third series victory.

In addition to both races at Martinsville, Custer will also compete in Truck races at Dover, Gateway, Iowa, Bristol, Canada, Loudon and Phoenix.

Final practice update:Casey Mears posted the fastest average speed in Saturday’s final practice session (122.406 mph). Matt Kenseth was second-fastest, Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski and Kyle Larson. Ryan Newman was fastest in Saturday’s first practice.

Three things to watch

1. Brad Keselowski is fresh off his first win of the season and has won two of the last five races at Bristol.

2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. can become just the second driver in NASCAR history (Richard Petty was the other) to begin the season with four consecutive finishes of second or better.

3. Kyle Busch needs to lead 140 laps to cross the 10,000-lap threshold for his Cup career. It’s certainly possible at a track where he was won five times.

Observations

• Good move by NASCAR in getting rid of cars doing “cool down” laps during the knockout qualifying process. The change – which allows teams to cool engines on pit road – did nothing to distract from what has become an entertaining qualifying process and prevented any possibility of a nasty, unintentional wreck taking place.

• Not sure if this is “new” per se, but NASCAR seems to be taking the track a lot more lately in utilizing conference calls with crew chiefs to gauge reaction to new ideas and finding the best way to tackle new problems. Complete agreement is hard to come by but teams should feel in this method that everyone’s concerns are at least being heard during the process. There has long been criticism NASCAR too often turned to the same teams and drivers to seek input.

•  It looks like bad weather will once again hinder the spring race weekend at Bristol – although I’m not sure the second week of March qualifies as spring in northeastern Tennessee. It’s time Speedway Motorsports Inc., the track’s owner, and NASCAR find a better solution for the date of this race weekend.

Best bets

Three picks for your fantasy racing team:

Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Carl Edwards

Today’s lineup

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