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Second K&N race at BMS makes sense

Jeff Birchfield • Jan 2, 2019 at 8:03 PM

The one major change on the Bristol Motor Speedway schedule for 2019 involves the August race week. A second race for the NASCAR K&N Series replaces the NASCAR Whelen Modified Series as part of a Thursday doubleheader with the NASCAR Truck Series.

While the Modifieds are popular with fans, particularly those in the Northeastern part of the country, the K&N Series makes more sense for Bristol Motor Speedway.

The Modified Series, which is NASCAR's oldest division, had been a part of the BMS schedule since 2009. Cup Series veteran Ryan Newman is the only driver to win two Modified races at BMS, while Ryan Preece, who will be competing for Cup Series Rookie of the Year, won in 2015.

With the series featuring open-wheel cars, it added a little variety to the BMS schedule.

On the other hand, the K&N Series offers another race for full-bodied stock cars. But that's not a bad thing.

The K&N Series, which has been a part of the spring schedule since 2012, has served as a launching pad for many of today's top drivers. Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr., the last two Cup Series champions, raced in the K&N Series, as did defending Daytona 500 champion Austin Dillon and NASCAR's Most Popular Driver Chase Elliott.

Harrison Burton, son of 21-time Cup Series winner Jeff Burton, and third-generation driver Todd Gilliland won the last two Bristol K&N races. They are likely to be full-time Cup drivers in the future, so this is truly a series to see the future stars of the sport.

For the drivers looking to make it to Xfinity or Cup, it makes more sense for them to race in the K&N Series at Bristol than the Modified Series. According to one NASCAR official I spoke with, the biggest factor behind the change was the cost to the teams. Most of the top Modified Series teams are located in the Northeast, so a race at Bristol late in the season is taxing to them.

The only Southern races in 2019 are trips to Myrtle Beach Speedway and South Boston (Va.) Speedway. None of the tracks are as tough on the teams' equipment as the "World's Fastest Half-Mile."

Many of the K&N teams are located in the Charlotte area, so it's just a 3-4 hour trip to Bristol. It gives the K&N Series three races in Tennessee with the Bristol dates on Saturday, April 6 and Thursday, Aug. 15. The series will also race at the 3/4-mile oval at Memphis International Raceway on June 1.

THE DIRTY TRUTH

Clay Valley Speedway, the former Lonesome Pine Raceway, which has been converted into a dirt track, has its season opener scheduled for Saturday, March 23. A grand opening is scheduled for 10 a.m. that morning.

The Schaeffer's Oil Spring Nationals is scheduled for April 12 at the Coeburn track. The Southeastern-based Schaeffer's Oil Late Model Series also has races in Tennessee, the Carolinas, Georgia and Alabama. It is scheduled to come to Wythe Raceway in Rural Retreat, Virginia, on July 13.

As for another local dirt track, Volunteer Speedway officials are yet to announce plans for the 2019 season.

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