Next Gen analysis: Track preparations made for optimal conditions Saturday at Bristol

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Editor‘s note: Bozi Tatarevic is a professional racing mechanic and pit-crew member. He will provide technical analysis for NASCAR.com throughout the 2022 season.

BRISTOL, Tenn. — Track conditions were optimal for the heat races Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway, with overnight rain and some clouds during the day leaving the track surface with just the right amount of moisture.

The first heat race for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series saw some soft dirt flying around, but once that session was complete, the track ended up in a condition that allowed for some speed. The surface was optimal by the time that the Cup cars took to the track for their heat races, which resulted in close racing and even some contact as drivers battled side by side.

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One of the more notable battles of the day happened between Austin Dillon and Bubba Wallace, as they exchanged spots during their heat race and made contact multiple times. But both cars were able to make it across the finish line without significant issues.

Bozi Bumper
Bozi Bumper

Most of the damage to the cars consisted of scrapes on the vinyl, although the No. 3 of Dillon did have some slight damage to the corner of its rear bumper. That was the product of another impact where the No. 3 slid as the No. 11 of Denny Hamlin was moving forward, which resulted in the grille extension of the No. 11 hitting that corner of the No. 3. The damage to both appears to mostly be cosmetic and shouldn‘t produce any issues in the race.

Things were a bit more hectic in the truck race as the rear of Matt DiBenedetto’s No. 25 Chevrolet was impacted by the front of the No. 22 of Austin Wayne Self late in the race, resulting in the trucks becoming stuck together. This very rare occurrence was the result of an impact where the rear bumper reinforcement bar of the No. 25 was perfectly aligned to punch through the front end of the No. 22 and stick behind a piece of the front clip structure.

Crews unsuccessfully tried to pry the vehicles apart, but because the portion of the bumper reinforcement was stuck parallel to the rear of the car, it would not budge. Lifting the cars did not allow them to come apart either, but a lateral pull did allow the piece to slide out.

Both cars eventually made it back to pit road at which point the crew of the No. 25 cut off the edge of that bumper reinforcement bar which was now pointing backward from the attempts to pull it apart. The trucks returned to the track after some quick repairs and finished the race but probably not in the position where those drivers expected to be. DiBenedetto wound up 35th while Self finished 36th.