NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers Tony Stewart and Jeff Burton believe the reconfigured banking at Bristol Motor Speedway is set to make racing closer after testing on the new surface.
The 28-degree banking on the upper lane of the half-mile track was decreased in order to reduce grip and bring it more in line with the old configuration that did not have the progressive banking introduced during a 2007 repave.
The new surface, with more even banking on the bottom and top lanes, was put to the test for the first time in a session arranged by Goodyear with three Cup teams, in order to gather information towards selecting compounds and constructions for the series' next round at the track in August. Reigning champion Stewart believes the racing groove has definitely narrowed, which he reckons will make racing closer.
"You've definitely lost the top groove," said Stewart. "Guys who run up there aren't going to be able room to get around and it can get pretty interesting.
"I'm one of the guys who likes that high groove, so it's really going to change things up for me. It'll change things for everybody though, because when you take away room to race on a track this small with 43 cars... yeah, it's going to tighten things up."
The reconfiguration, which was completed in a month, was prompted by decreasing crowds at what used to be a sell-out event. Burton, a former race winner at Bristol under its previous configuration, believes the changes will probably not please the drivers but could please fans.
"Goodyear is looking to bring a tire with more grip," said Burton. "I really think they have found some stuff that is really promising.
"As for the track itself, I really can't imagine running up there in that top groove. I think it is going to force everyone more to the middle and bottom of the track. The drivers aren't going to be happy, but the spectators probably will be because it is going to put more cars in a closer space.
"By taking away that groove, it is going to change your mind about going up there. I think it is going to be two grooves, unless Goodyear brings a tyre with a lot of grip. If that is the case, you'll want to run around the bottom."
Testing at Bristol continues on Wednesday.