Previewing the Jeff Byrd 500
by Matt Taliaferro and Nathan Rush
Location: Bristol, Tenn.
Specs: .533-mile oval; Banking/Turns: variable (24°-30°); Banking/Straightaways: 16°
2010 Winners: Jimmie Johnson (March), Kyle Busch (August)
2011 Race Length: 266.5 miles/500 laps
Track Qualifying Record: 128.709 mph (Ryan Newman, 2003)
Race Record: 101.074 mph (Charlie Glotzbach, 1971)
From the Spotter’s Stand
Kyle Busch tripled his fun in his Doublemint Toyota at Bristol last August, capping off a historic weekend by winning the Cup race on Saturday after taking the checkers at the Nationwide race on Friday and the Truck Series event on Wednesday — becoming the first driver to sweep all three series in the same week. Rowdy bullwhipped the half-mile concrete bullring, leading 283 laps en route to his fourth career win at Bristol. Busch has won three of the last four runs at the high-stress, high-banked Tennessee track.
Jimmie Johnson spoiled both Busch brothers’ day in March, breaking up Kyle’s streak and upsetting Kurt (278 laps led) for JJ’s first victory at Bristol and 50th win of his career.
Crew Chief’s Take
“Having a car that handles well in the center of the corner off is a key to working through the pack. Track position is a key as well. As the race winds down, most crew chiefs opt for position over new tires, as getting through traffic quickly is next to impossible.
“For a driver, it's like walking a tightrope. If you’re tense, nervous or uncomfortable, you can’t function there. The great drivers say that if you can get settled in and get comfortable, everything seems to slow down, but there aren’t many with the skills to really reach that point. Most of them just say they do.”
Looking at Checkers: Kyle Busch is taking his turn as the Beast of Bristol. It runs in waves.
Pretty Solid Pick: Since Jimmie Johnson doesn’t qualify for “Sleeper” status anymore ...
Good Sleeper Pick: Junior qualifies, though — and makes a nice top-10 candidate.
Runs on Seven Cylinders: Even in his heyday, Bobby Labonte never quite figured out Bristol.
Insider Tip: They’re going to have to go through Kyle, one way or another, and races on the new surface are a lot easier to predict.
Classic Moments at Bristol
In the early- and mid-1980s, the only thing more certain than Darrell Waltrip winning the booing contest in pre-race introductions is his winning trophies at Bristol. Waltrip wins an astounding seven straight at the half-mile bullring between March 1981 and April 1984.
However, the streak comes to an end in August ’84 at the Busch 500. Waltrip leads 144 laps early but is plagued by myriad of issues late in the race. Instead, Terry Labonte battles back from two accidents — one a foreshadowing of things to come in the 1990s with Dale Earnhardt — to break Waltrip’s Bristol streak.
It’s Labonte’s fourth career victory and one that catapults him by Earnhardt into the championship lead. Labonte pulls away down the stretch from Harry Gant to win the 1984 Winston Cup.