BRISTOL, Tenn. – Though several veterans topped the speed charts Thursday when the Super DIRTcar Series big-block modifieds hit the track for practice at Bristol Motor Speedway, youngster Jack Lehner was also quick out of the gate.
The 22-year-old native of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., was in awe of the size and magnitude of the Bristol high banks, despite showing speed throughout the three-hour evening session.
“I pulled in and I was like ‘Holy cow,’” Lehner said. “I didn’t realize how banked it was. I mean, people tell you how banked this place is, but in the pictures, it looked like they took some banking out.
“You just don’t know until you get there … and it’s pretty nuts here, I can tell you that.”
Lehner showed plenty of speed during the first practice session, going third fastest with a lap of 17.568 seconds in his familiar No. 2.
“We were all kind of guessing, obviously, because none of us had been here yet,” he explained. “I don’t know if it was by luck [that we were fast] or because I talked to a lot of late model and UMP guys who ran here, but I felt like our car was money right out of the trailer. I went into turn one somewhat easy the first time and was like, ‘Man, this thing feels awesome.’
“Then I hit turn three wide open and it was just perfect.”
While Bristol may be one of the fastest tracks in the country when dirt is laid down on the surface, it may not be the fastest facility for the northeast big-block modified field.
“We were flying,” Lehner noted. “It kind of reminds me of [Lebanon Valley Speedway] a little bit, just because of how fast we were going. We are probably a little faster here, but I like going fast, so it’s all good with me.”
While the clay used to turn Bristol Motor Speedway dirt is the same color as the dirt found throughout the southeast, including at The Dirt Track at Charlotte – where the Super DIRTcar Series races during the annual World of Outlaws World Finals – it is not the same dirt at all.
“It’s way different,” Lehner said regarding the track surface at Bristol. “I don’t know if it’s the way they prepped the track or [concrete] being under it, but it’s not [as] gripped up as Charlotte is. It really slicked off at the end. It’s a good surface though.”
While the NASCAR weekend on dirt Bristol showed plenty of tire wear, this weekend hasn’t seemed to wear tires as much, at least so far. Despite that fact, however, there’s another factor at play.
“There’s not a lot of wear, but there is a lot of heat [being generated],” said Lehner. “At the same time, you need to get the heat in the tires. You have to be somewhere in the middle with that. You can’t overdo it or underdo it.
“You really have to be on your tire game and it’s going to be one of the biggest factors this weekend.”
Lehner and the rest of the Super DIRTcar Series field will return to the high banks of Bristol Motor Speedway for the opening night of the Bristol Throwdown. Hot laps begin at 6 p.m. ET.