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Drivers disagree on Bristol changes

FONTANA, Calif. — A proposal to revamp Bristol Motor Speedway drew mixed reactions among NASCAR drivers Friday.

Earlier this week, track owner Bruton Smith said he is thinking about restoring tighter lanes and getting rid of variable banking at the half-mile track before Sprint Cup returns in August. That would force drivers to return to the beating and banging that made its races so volatile. Smith said he expects to decide next week.

"I like that rough-and-tumble type of racing," Kevin Harvick said before qualifying for the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway. "That's what made Bristol what it was. People don't want to watch cars ride around with no donuts on the doors and no caved-in fenders at Bristol. They don't want to see a 200-lap, 150-lap green-flag run."

Brad Keselowski, who won at Bristol on Sunday while leading 232 laps, is equally emphatic in favor of the changes made in 2007 that allow smoother, cleaner racing.

"I think there are other ways to make the racing better," he said. "The reconfiguration has helped the facility to what otherwise could have been a worse scenario. I do think that it would be a knee-jerk reaction."

Harvick said he believes the current setup is behind declining attendance at the track. The stands appeared half-full Sunday although NASCAR announced an attendance of 102,000 at the 160,000-seat venue.

"In all fairness, everybody in Bristol was trying to make the race track better. And in the end, it didn't work," Harvick said. "The telltale sign of that was standing in the infield and looking at the crowd. It used to be years upon years of waiting lists. When you take a risk like they took on changing the race track with engineers … now they're going to pay probably the ultimate (price)."

Hamlin wins pole: Denny Hamlin went low when most went high, and he ended up on the pole for Sunday's race. Hamlin won his 10th career pole. He turned a lap of 186.403 mph by picking a lower line than most of his competitors. Hamlin's teammate, Kyle Busch, and Mark Martin tied for second at 185.533 mph. But Busch will start No. 2 based on owners' points. Points leader Greg Biffle was fourth at 185.510.

Formula One: Kimi Raikkonen will start Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix five spots behind where he qualifies for changing his gearbox after the first practice. Gearboxes must be used for five races.

.FAST FACTS

Sprint Cup

Next race: Auto Club 400

When: 3 p.m. Sunday

Where: Auto Club Speedway, Fontana

TV: Ch. 13

Drivers disagree on Bristol changes 03/23/12 [Last modified: Friday, March 23, 2012 11:29pm]

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