Drivers divided on Bristol changes

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If Bristol Motor Speedway goes back to its rough-and-tumble roots before NASCAR returns in August, the drivers say they’ll be ready for it.

Even if some are more excited about it than others.

Owner Bruton Smith is thinking about restoring tighter lanes and getting rid of variable banking at the venerable half-mile track, essentially forcing drivers to return to the beating and banging that made its races so entertaining and volatile.

Before preparing Friday for qualifying at Auto Club Speedway east of Los Angeles, Kevin Harvick counted himself among the traditionalists who would love to mix it up again.

“I like that rough-and-tumble type of racing,” Harvick said. “I know a lot of the car owners and some of the drivers don’t like that style of racing. That’s what made Bristol what it was. People don’t want to watch cars ride around with no donuts on the doors and no caved-in fenders at Bristol. They don’t want to see a 200-lap, 150-lap green-flag run. That’s not what they come to Bristol for, and that’s why they quit coming.”

Smith said earlier this week he would consider making $1 million in changes to respond to fans’ concerns about the current setup.

Carl Edwards spoke for several drivers who reserved their opinions on the potential changes until Smith actually decides what to do, possibly as soon as next week.

“He can do whatever he’d like to do, and if it were possible to put it back just like it was, and he was willing to do it, then that’s fine with me,” Edwards said.

Some drivers speculated that such extensive changes might cost much more than $1 million in practice.

FORMULA ONE: Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen will be penalized five grid places at Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix after making an unscheduled gearbox change following the opening practice sessions.

According to regulations, gearboxes are required to last five races.


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