Our Moneys Worth

BRISTOL, Tenn. – For a while Saturday night, it looked as if cooler heads were going to prevail in the Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

For the first half of the race, there were very few “racing incidents” between drivers, and that’s just unheard of for a race at the “World’s Fastest Half Mile.” Remember both the Busch Series and Winston Cup Series races there back in March?

Remember Jimmy Spencer and Kurt Busch? Remember Greg Biffle and Kevin Harvick?

Enough said.

But then the usual Bristol demeanor began to set in during the second half of Saturday night’s event, and tempers reached a fever pitch. This was certainly the short-track racing we have all come to know and love.

And it certainly made for a very entertaining final 250 laps.

Kyle Petty vs. Jeff Gordon. Ward Burton vs. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Hut Stricklin vs. Jeremy Mayfield. Robby Gordon vs., well, a lot of people.

What an exciting undercard to the actual finish of the race, eh? These are the things that make the night race at Bristol perhaps the best ticket of the season.

On lap 422, Earnhardt Jr.’s Chevy hit Ward Burton’s Dodge from behind, putting Burton into the wall. Burton ran well all night long and appeared headed for a Top 5, but the accident relegated him to a 37th-place finish.

Normally not one to display his emotions, Burton got out of his car, got up on the banking of the track and waited for Junior to come around, at which time he threw his heel pads at Junior’s car.

“I’ve got some really good words for him that I can’t say,” Burton said. “Rusty and I raced lap after lap and didn’t’ rub or nothing. Junior gets under me for one lap and I’m in the wall. I was driving clean trying to get to the finish to see what we had. Junior got me a little bit for lap. He took it, and I’m in the wall. End of story.”

“I was real disappointed that happened,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “I don’t really keep it no secret when I wreck somebody. I don’t do it that often. Hopefully for sure Ward knows that it wasn’t intentional. Of course, he showed his emotions there, real colorful. I didn’t mind. I was disappointed that he didn’t get whatever he threw into the car ‘cause I’d have liked to have seen what it was.”

The most surprising battle that came out of Saturday night’s race was that between Jeff Gordon and Kyle Petty. Gordon is certainly one of the more if not the most mild-mannered driver in the Winston Cup Series, and Petty has certainly mellowed over the past few years.

Petty, however, tried desperately to get his lap back from Gordon a couple of times, and Gordon was having none of it.

During a caution period, Petty came up and tapped Gordon’s car with his on the side, letting him know he was there. Patty Petty, Kyle’s wife, even made a visit down to Gordon’s pit stall to voice her opinion of the situation.

“I thought he was going to let me have the lap back a couple of times, but he never did. I didn’t know what the problem was. That’s the way it should be, I’m not blaming him. I couldn’t race him for the win, so it wasn’t going to hurt him. But we had a good night.”

Gordon said letting drivers have their lap back is a no-win situation.

“You tick people off when you give them a lap back, and you tick them off when you don’t get them a lap back,” Gordon said. “When you’re on the receiving end of something like that, it’s a wonderful thing. I was in the opposite situation at Daytona, trying to get a lap back, and I had to do some things I wasn’t comfortable in doing. I just don’t like to be put in that situation.”

Mayfield punted Stricklin from behind on Lap 348, and Stricklin gave Mayfield the obligatory scoff and yelling at when he came around.

Robby Gordon, who has been known to get a bit aggressive in the past, was penalized two laps for “rough driving” when he hit Jimmie Johnson from behind. He also roughed up Johnny Benson a bit to get a lap back.

“I don’t get it, I didn’t mean to hit him (Johnson),” Gordon said. “He shifted gears there and I hit him. Simple as that. I’m just trying to get him to give me some professional courtesy. He wouldn’t do it. He wouldn’t let me go. What do you do?”

So, another Bristol race is come and gone, and it was a 10 on the entertaining scale. But don’t worry about it, we’ve still got two short-track races left, at Richmond and Martinsville.

To be continued…

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