While weather forced the nearly 170 competitors at Bristol Motor Speedway for the Pinty’s U.S. Short Track Nationals to wait until the evening hours to get on track, the experience was worth the wait for some of the fastest in Friday’s practice sessions.
Each of the four divisions of competition at Bristol enjoyed one 30-minute round of practice on Friday ahead of Saturday’s racing at “The Last Great Colosseum.” In the headlining Super Late Models, Georgia’s Jake Garcia set fast time with a blistering lap of 14.501 seconds.
Garcia’s lap was quicker than Stephen Nasse’s pole time for this race in 2019, when he set fast time with a lap of 14.526 seconds. It was a quick lap for a quick study around Bristol’s high banks, as Garcia is making his first Super Late Model appearance at the track.
“This is my first time here in a Super car, so it was a new experience for me,” Garcia told Speed51. “This place is a different animal compared to any other tracks we go to. Winchester is the only thing that’s even close. It’s just extremely fast.
“It’s cool to be at a place like Bristol, with as much history as it has. I’m probably one of the fastest people to get around here now, so that’s cool to say. It’s a completely different experience from anything I’ve ever had. It sits you down in the seat so much. It’s hard to explain, but it’s a different feeling from anything else.”
Meanwhile, Travis Braden set fast time for the Pro Late Models with a lap of 15.091. He admitted after the Pro Late Model practice session he was still trying to process the speed Late Models carry around Thunder Valley.
“I’m trying to still process it all. You get around this place so fast, you don’t even realize what’s going on. It was cool to be under the lights, and everyone’s cars are fast right now. I think we can make it a little bit better and see how tomorrow goes.”
Stephen Nasse took home one of Bristol’s gladiator swords in 2019 after winning the Super Late Model portion of the U.S. Short Track Nationals. The Florida racer was second-fastest in the Pro Late Model and third-fastest in his Super Late Model on Friday night. It was not without drama, however.
Nasse logged only a small handful of laps in his Super Late Model after discovering a power steering issue. The team was able to resolve the issue in time to get him on track, but he is looking forward to a better evaluation of the car on Saturday.
“It was a little hectic. We had some power steering issues we weren’t expecting to have. It puts you behind the eight ball, but the guys worked quick to get it changed out. We were able to get out there.
“We made five laps in the Super and put it P3. I feel pretty good about the car. It needs a little bit of work and I need some track time. I hope tomorrow is a new day and we can make some good, hard laps behind some guys and see where we stack up.
One of the surprises near the top of the leaderboards on Friday was Pro Late Model rookie Charlie Keeven. Keeven is a Championship Chase contender in the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour, and quickly took a liking to Bristol in his first time at the track.
“This track is just so fun. I had never been here before; it was my first time coming. I just felt I could flat-foot it.
“It’s going to be some great racing on this track. I’ve never been on such a smooth track. It should be a great one.”
Jason Atkinson logged quick time in practice for the CRA Street Stocks, while Tom Gossar was quickest in Vores Compact Touring Series practice.
Race fans can watch all of Saturday’s racing from the Pinty’s U.S. Short Track Nationals live on Speed51.TV. Click here to order your pay-per-view ticket now for Saturday’s event.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51 Photo