KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, the site of Wednesday night’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series UNOH 200, is a high-banked, .533-mile oval that is well known as “The World’s Fastest Half-Mile.” The Tennessee short track is one of the toughest the three national touring series visit. Being successful at Bristol isn’t quite as simple as having the fastest racecar. It takes patience, finesse, tire and brake management and, oh yeah, a little bit of “right-place, right-time” luck.
The tight-quarters racing produced at Bristol often leads to accidents, many of which often collect serious collateral damage as there is a lack of room to maneuver around someone else’s misfortune. A driver can quickly find a good run ended prematurely as a result of the lack of real estate offered by the concrete bullring.
Cole Custer, driver of the No. 00 Haas Automation Chevrolet Silverado for Haas Racing Development (HRD), will make his first Truck Series start at Bristol Wednesday but he is no stranger to the facility. Bristol was the site of his first NASCAR K&N Series start on March 16, 2013.
Custer started 17th and was racing his way toward the top-10 when he made contact with another driver, resulting in a cut tire. While he was able to keep his spinning Chevrolet from hitting anything and accruing more damage, he wound up losing several laps when he was forced to make a green-flag pit stop. He would finish the day in the 24th position, but the finish was far from indicative of the one he appeared to be on his way to earning. Custer made his second series start at Bristol in March, and experienced similar misfortune. Despite struggling with an ill-handling racecar, he was able to race his way into the top-10 when he was caught up in an incident not of his own making. Still, Custer was able to rally to finish 14th.
The 16-year-old Custer would like nothing more than to add another NASCAR record to his resume this weekend at Bristol by becoming the youngest winner in Camping World Truck Series history. He’s already claimed the record as the youngest pole winner in national touring series history, as well as the youngest winner in K&N Pro Series history. But he knows if he’s to contend for the win, he’ll have to not only beat 35 other drivers to the finish line, he’ll also have to survive one of the most difficult races and racetracks on the circuit.
COLE CUSTER, Driver of the No. 00 Haas Automation Chevrolet Silverado for Haas Racing Development:
What does it take to be successful at Bristol Motor Speedway?
“I think, in order to be successful at Bristol, you need to have a strong truck first and foremost. You need to be able to make your truck work at the top of the track. You’ve got to race well. You can’t just have a fast truck and expect to win. It takes so much more at Bristol. It’s always important to have good restarts, but it seems to be even more important there.”
You tested at Bristol a couple of weeks ago. What did you learn from that test session?
“The test gave me a lot of confidence heading into Wednesday night’s race. Our Haas Automation Silverado handled really well. I expect to be really strong this weekend. We were able to find a good balance in the truck and that’s going to be really important in the race.”
You made your first NASCAR K&N Series start at Bristol in 2013. Talk about that race and the experience of your first time racing at Bristol.
“My first time at Bristol was awesome. It’s always been a fan-favorite track and for good reason. It was a lot to take in that weekend. You really feel the G-forces there and that was something that I’d never experienced before. It was such a different racetrack, one that I found myself really having to adapt to. It was so exciting to be on that big stage for driver intros at Bristol. I’ll never forget that day.”
The preferred line around Bristol used to be the low line. However, it seems now that the high line is the way to go. Why do you think that is?
“The high side seems to me like where you need to be because you can roll the corner better and keep your momentum up. It’s really slick up there since they ground the top, and it takes a while to rubber up. It’s still really slick at the start of the race, but the line seems to move toward the top as the race goes on. It’s a little more treacherous up there but I think the fastest way around is up top, and that’s where I think I’ll need to be Wednesday night.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine