Changing track has made Bristol tougher on Kurt Busch

Kurt Busch (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

BRISTOL, Tenn. — Kurt Busch is tied with his brother Kyle for most victories among active drivers at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Only one problem: that’s ancient history. Busch earned four of his five Bristol victories during a five-race stretch from spring 2002 through spring 2004. His last win at the .533-mile high-banked short track came in the spring of 2006, his first season with team owner Roger Penske.

Since then, the feast has turned to famine, and Busch knows why. It has everything to do with changes to the track that have opened up the outside lane – and simultaneously opened the path to victory for a much broader group of drivers. Busch ran third at BMS in last year’s spring race, matching his best finish since his most recent victory.

“It’s definitely gotten tougher, with the amount of options there are with the low lane, the high lane, the way that the tires have changed,” Busch said on Friday before opening practice at Bristol. “The races that I won had a nice, consistent pattern. It was to be a bulldog on the bottom lane, move guys out of the way, and let the rough edges drag.

“The new Bristol and where we are now, it’s a little bit more finesse, and you have to find the lane that works the best to be able to get by the guy that’s already in the best lane, and you can’t necessarily just move him because we’re all on that ragged edge. That high lane, we’re all up there running that 15-second lap time, and you’re right on the edge of slipping already, so you’re trying to get to the guy and move him, and yet if you do one little extra step, you’re gonna slide up into the fence.

“It’s such a large consequence when that happens, so it’s just a different way of going about it, and I haven’t quite mastered it like I did before, and, again, third last spring here and just trying to build off of that.”