In more ways than one, Bradley McCaskill enters the Short Track U.S. Nationals at Bristol Motor Speedway (TN) on May 18-20 looking for redemption.
The Wendell, North Carolina driver is off to a slow start by his expectations in 2018. As a member of the CARS Response Energy Tour’s “Touring 12,” McCaskill competes in the CARS Late Model Stock Tour. However, his finishes have been sub-par to start the season. McCaskill boasts just one top-10 finish on the ledger, a sixth-place effort at Myrtle Beach Speedway (SC), as his Renfrow-McCaskill Racing team is looking to put all the pieces of the puzzle together.
“We’ve struggled,” McCaskill told Speed51.com. “We’ve shown some good at Myrtle Beach and Orange County. We’ve just struggled to put together the whole package and execute. But we have speed, and that’s the bright side looking forward. We’ve just got to gain ground on the whole package.”
McCaskill hopes Bristol can be the place he turns his season around. He also has plenty of reason to be optimistic. Last year at Thunder Valley, McCaskill was one of the fastest drivers in the Late Model Stock division throughout the weekend until a Saturday practice crash ended his weekend.
While the heavy impact totaled that race car, he says the notes from last year’s Short Track U.S. Nationals should get him up to speed quickly for the return to Bristol.
“We have a lot of notes,” McCaskill said.” Unfortunately, we lost that car. There was no saving that car. But we do have all the notes and information from that car and we are applying it this year. We are hoping we can use Bristol to shoot us to a strong second half of the season.”
Perhaps more importantly, McCaskill is looking forward to racing in the 100-lap CARS Late Model Stock Tour feature, scheduled for Saturday’s racing program, after missing out on the chance to race at Bristol last year.
“We were all pretty down about missing the event,” McCaskill admitted. “Just not being able to run the race. Not just because we had a fast car, but to be able to race at Bristol. That’s why you go. It would be huge to be able to compete in it and be a part of the CARS Tour at Bristol.”
Bristol is a particularly exciting track for Late Model Stock competitors, not just for its prestige but for its unique challenges. The Late Model Stock discipline, based largely in the Carolinas, Virginia, and Eastern Tennessee, lacks any tracks that remotely compare to the speed and size of Bristol’s famed concrete high-banks. According to McCaskill, the closest comparison is Concord Speedway (NC), a half-mile tri-oval with 14 degrees of banking in the first and third turns – and the site of McCaskill’s lone CARS Tour win, in 2015.
“I would say Concord is the closest for us,” McCaskill said. “It’s still not even remotely close. Every part of your guts want to come out every lap, and I love it. There’s no comparing it to anything until you witness it.
“TV doesn’t do it justice until you're in the pits until you’re looking up at race cars around the track,” McCaskill added. “And I can say from experience, the soft walls do their jobs. We had a heck of a hit. Jay Hedgecock builds a heck of a race car which is fast and safe.”
Despite his struggles this season, McCaskill hopes the return visit to Bristol will end in a strong run, propelling him to a summer streak.
“Really, I’m expecting us to go out there and be fast,” said McCaskill. “Anything short of a top five, we’re going to be pretty upset based on the speed we had last year and the notebook we have going back. A Hedgecock Chassis and John West Racing Engines at a track like Bristol, and it’s pretty magical.”
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