What does it feel like driving a Dirt Late Model at Bristol?


When decked out in its concrete surface with its high banks at their full steepness, Bristol Motor Speedway is often referred to as “The World’s Fastest Half-Mile”. And according to those who pilot Dirt Late Model machines around the upper east Tennessee track, the same can be said when in its clay covered configuration.

Following last weekend’s action in the XR Super Series-sanctioned Karl Kustoms Bristol Dirt Nationals, InsideDirtRacing.com asked four drivers the same two questions to gauge their reaction to the historic NASCAR facility that boasts a seating capacity of 160,000 fans.

Here are their responses:

Question #1: Do you get the same sensation of speed here as you would at some other high speed track such as Tazewell Speedway or Volunteer Speedway?

Kyle Strickler: “No, you don’t really realize how fast you’re going here until something happens in front of you. I feel like it’s way harder on your body and you feel like you’re going way faster at Tazewell where you’re driving into a wall of banking. The direction change here, you really don’t notice until you get to the center of the corner when it plants the whole car. But if you drive in the corner and your right front doesn’t stick, then you realize in a hurry how fast you’re going.”

Kyle Strickler

Ricky Thornton Jr.: “Actually, I haven’t been to either one of those two places. I kind of compare this place to Knoxville. The speed here and there feel about the same to me. It’s a way different configuration. The biggest difference here, I think, than anywhere else we go is when you get down in the corner, instead of it sucking you to the right in the seat it actually sucks you down in the seat. Once you get used to that, you’re pretty good.”

Ricky Thornton Jr.

Dakotah Knuckles(A regular at Tazewell and Volunteer): “It’s quite a bit different speed-wise. You carry a lot more momentum around here. You can definitely tell you’re moving on pretty good. Tazewell is a quick track and everything happens quicker there. You see a little bit more what’s going on here, but if you mess up one little bit here, it’s a lot worse here than it is at a different track.”

Dakotah Knuckles

Ashton Winger: “I definitely think during hot laps and qualifying when there’s some grip in the racetrack, you’re definitely moving when you get to the flag stand. It’s a lot like Bulls Gap(Volunteer). When the racetrack is fast unlike when it’s slick, it feels like two totally different places. It’s been awesome so far and I’m having a lot of fun.”

Ashton Winger

Question # 2: Do you get a sense of the massiveness of the grandstands when you’re on the track?

Strickler: “For sure. The hardest thing for me, we were talking about it with my NASCAR buddies who have worked for teams and been here with Cup drivers, is that everything is so symmetrical here that you lose where you’re at on the racetrack. You don’t know if you’re going into turn one or turn three. The only way you can tell is the flag stand. If you’re racing and you miss the flag stand or you’re focused on the cars around you, you lose all track of where you’re at until you find the flag stand again. They say it happens all the time with the Cup drivers. The grandstands and you’re perception of what is going on outside the racetrack kind of gets messed up here because the grandstands look the same the whole way around. At a normal racetrack, you have breaks in the grandstands or you can distinctly tell what is the backstretch and what is the front stretch because the shape of the race track is different.”

Thornton: “Yes and no. When you roll out onto it before you get ready to go you notice it big time. Once you start racing, the walls are built so high you can’t see the bottom section of the stands. You can’t see all of the grandstands when you’re on the track.”

Knuckles: “Yeah, you definitely pay attention to stuff like that. It’s just a pretty neat deal to come here and race. It’s different for sure and I like it.”

Winger: “Not  really. For me, I’m just so focused on what I’m doing. I think if one little thing goes wrong, a lot can happen in a short amount of time here so you have to be focused on what you’re doing.”

The racing action will resume this weekend in the Bristol Dirt Nationals. Make sure to check in regularly to InsideDirtRacing.com to follow along.

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