Drivers Joshua Reeves, representing the oval track, and Alex Laughlin, the defending Pro Stock winner at the drag strip, were in Bristol on Tuesday to preview the upcoming races. The Short Track U.S. Nationals are May 18-20, while the Thunder Valley Nationals are June 15-17.
For Reeves, who hails from another iconic NASCAR town in Martinsville, Va., it will be his first time competing on Bristol's high banks when he races in the Champion Racing Association (CRA) Pro Late Models event.
Reeves has been living in Bristol since November, relocating to work the Wade Lopez Racing team with the Late Models and with Henderson Motorsports in the NASCAR Truck Series. He had veteran crew chief Chris Carrier with him at the press conference, but will be with members of his late model crew since there's a date conflict with the Truck Series race in Charlotte.
Still, Reeves is excited for Bristol's challenge on a weekend when there are feature races with five different sanctioning bodies and six classes of competition during the three-day event.
"I've run Winchester and Salem (which are high-banked Indiana tracks) in the ARCA series, but I don't have anything yet to compare," he said. 'I'm pretty excited. I just want to be there at the end. Attrition is going to be key, so to come out there with a solid finish is something I need to have."
The late model cars have a different feel than his ARCA car. It's a much lighter car which handles better and has a better grip level. It allows the drivers to drive deeper into the corners at Bristol than in a Cup Series or other big NASCAR machine.
Each of the three days of racing has a 100-lap Late Model race as the featured event.
Laughlin, who hails from Grandbury, Texas, drives a Chevrolet Camaro that will carry the Fitzgerald colors for the Bristol race. He has two career wins, including last year at Bristol, and a career-best elapsed time at 6.514 seconds and a best speed of 212.83 miles per hour.
He had a perfect reaction time in last year's Thunder Valley Nationals to beat Bo Butner in the final round.
His winning run of 6.718 seconds at 205.04 mph came after Laughlin defeated local favorite Allen Johnson of Greeneville in the opening round, five-time Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. in the quarterfinals and Tanner Gray in the semifinals.
The performance is just one reason why Laughlin likes Bristol so much.
"It was a huge win for us last year with it Father's Day weekend and my dad a big part of our race team," said Laughlin, currently 10th in this year's Pro Stock point standings. "But it's one of my favorite venues solely on the facility — the fans, the track and even the town. This is my favorite place to be and if I ever moved away from Texas, it would probably be near Bristol, Tennessee."
Tickets for both racing events are currently on sale. Visit www.bristoltix.com for more information.