MIKE SHIPLETT, Crew Chief - No. 43 Insignia/Best Buy Ford Fusion
HOW MUCH OF A CHALLENGE IS BRISTOL FROM A CAR SETUP STANDPOINT? "Bristol has changed quite a bit since they repaved it. It used to be one groove and you would have to hit somebody to get by them, but now there are basically three grooves you can run now. It is more or less getting the right balance of the car so you have a good solid entry and can get the car turned in the middle, and not be too loose up off the corner. Now with the banking you have a lot more options as the driver to run different lines. It is a little bit more challenging just getting the up-and-down movement of the car exactly right, so you get entry, middle and exit the same."
DOES BRISTOL CREATE MORE DRASTIC ISSUES FOR THE CHASSIS? "No, it isn't as violent as it was before. It isn't like a mile-and-a-half where you keep the splitter as close to the ground as you can all the way around the racetrack. At Bristol your splitter will be up and down the straightaways and then fall into the corner and be sealed up through the middle. Just trying to find that balance is tough because you have a lot more movement. You are going more for mechanical grip than you are for aero. Aero is out the door at Bristol. It is all about mechanical grip and getting all four tires working together and pressing into the racetrack at the same time and coming up off the corner at the same time. Controlling your entry and exit so the whole car platform moves at the same time is what you are trying to control."
IS IT TOUGHER TO CALL THE RACE AT A PLACE LIKE BRISTOL? "What we do a lot is communicate through the spotter. Depending on if you are on the frontstretch or backstretch you can only see half the track at a time. What we do is sit down with the driver and spotter before the race and go over a lot of what-if scenarios. Then I can talk to the spotter on another radio and if I have to tell AJ [Allmendinger] something I will relay it to the spotter and he will tell AJ in between clearing him in and out of traffic. If I start talking and something happens in another corner, I know we are going to be in that corner in eight seconds, so there is not enough time for me to get off the radio before he could drive right into a wreck."
IS THERE ONE THING THAT IS A STICKING POINT AT BRISTOL? "The biggest thing is you can enter pit road in two different places. In a yellow, everyone enters off turn two. If you have to make a green flag pit stop you have to enter off of turn four. The driver, making 500 laps around that place, can get confused very easily with what corner they are in. Some of the best drivers in this business have come down the wrong pit road and lost the race at Bristol. It is easy to do."
MANY DRIVERS SAY BRISTOL IS THEIR FAVORITE TRACK. WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS? "It's their favorite track because you take the aero completely out of it, so it is all back in the drivers hands. At other tracks, we control how fast the driver can go with the balance of the car and with aero. At Bristol, it is all mechanical grip and how far the driver wants to push it and how sideways the driver wants to get going into the corners."
Credit: Ford Racing