Bristol Race Recap
March 28, 2004 | 8:45 P.M. EST
The Key Moment –
Rusty Wallace buzzed his tires on the penultimate restart and lost his best chance to get around Kurt Busch. A lap 494 caution reduced the amount of green flag laps Wallace had to keep trying. In a Nutshell –
There's a reason Bristol never has problems selling out the grandstands. The racing ain't pretty but its exciting. Dramatic Moment –
Restarting a Cup race with two laps to go, twenty cars on the lead lap and at Bristol of all places is like throwing a single prime rib into a pack of rabid pit bulls. What They'll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week Would Rusty Wallace have knocked Busch out of the way if he could have gotten to him? (As Montgomery-Gentry might say, "Hell Yeah!")
What's wrong with Bristol? A track has to be messed up for a Busch series regular to win on Saturday.
Will NASCAR have to file the finishing order from Saturday's Busch race under "fiction" in the library?
Didn't it seem half the wrecks Sunday were caused by a driver in a faster car checking up to avoid driving into the back of Ricky Craven?
What makes Kurt Busch so good at Bristol?
Should Scott Wimmer have been penalized a lap? It looked like the whole mess was Stewar's fault. I mean Tony Stewart losing his temper at Bristol, who would have thunk?
Was a caution flag needed when Earnhardt did his half spin? No other cars were involved and Junior gathered it up pretty quickly.
Is it fair to make a crew chief and driver have to report to the trailer for criticizing a call by NASCAR? (Tony Eury questioned the wisdom of NASCAR blowing off the track with less than 30 laps to race and earned a summons even before Junior got into the back of the 77.)
How severe will Jamie McMurray's penalty be for spinning the 17 out on pit road under caution?
What's got into (or back into) Tony Stewart lately? He's running amuck.
Is this the first time a network has ever missed a restart AND a caution while away in break?
The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune
Dale Jarrett ran solidly in the top 10 all day but hard contact with the 22 car but Jarrett into the wall, badly damaged his car and that left him 21st in the final rundown.
Jimmie Johnson had a myriad of problems all day and every time he fought his way back up front something else happened. He cut down a tire while running sixth and dropped to 27th, two laps off the pace. But after a green flag cycle of pit stops he was actually shown as the leader. But on a subsequent pit stop, the 48 team left a lug nut loose, forcing Johnson to pit again. And he almost missed his pit box on that stop. Eventually he finished 16th.
Brendan Gaughan had the best run of his brief Cup season going when he checked up to avoid Ricky Craven late in the going and got hit from behind by the 8 car.
Rusty Wallace took the lead from four other drivers, but couldn’t manage to do it a fifth time late in the race after his power steering failed. He lost his best opportunity at a win in many a moon.
Kasey Kahne has been the Cinderella story of 2004 to date, but the clock struck midnight in Thunder Valley. Kahne was wrecked out of the Busch race and finished 27th. Things went even worse on Sunday when Kahne wrecked while racing for second early in the event. He was done for the day and finished 40th.
Ever get the feeling it's just not going to be your day? Casey Mears was forced to the pits early with a broken radiator. Shortly after he returned to the track Ricky Rudd bounced off the wall right in front of him and Mears had absolutely nowhere to go.
The "Seven Come Fore Eleven" Award For Fine Fortune
Jamie McMurray had to overcome an early race spin, a long pit stop when he missed his box and late race contact with Matt Kenseth to still somehow finish 8th.
Scott Wimmer had to survive the on-track accident with Tony Stewart, Stewart's retaliation after the yellow flag flew, a questionable one lap penalty for the post-accident theatrics, and hard contact with the 88 car, yet somehow he managed to finish on the lead lap in thirteenth.
Ryan Newman went a lap down at the midpoint of the race and his car looked terrible on worn tires, yet he somehow posted a seventh place finish.
Jeff Gordon suffered brain fade and lost a lap in the pits driving down both pit roads under green, but he managed to find his way back to a ninth place finish.
Matt Kenseth just barely sneaked through the carnage that resulted when Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton got together to bring out the third caution.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. had a lug nut left loose on a pit stop and was on the verge of going several laps down when he lost control and did a slow half-spin. NASCAR threw the caution and Earnhardt was able to stay on the lead lap. His late race contact with the 77 could easily have holed his radiator, but Junior went on to finish eleventh. And nobody ran into him after the race.
Sterling Marlin used a two-tire stop to take over the lead of the race during the fifth caution period. Once he gained all that track position, Marlin stayed with the front pack and finished fourth.
The top 10 finishers drove five Dodges, three Chevys and a pair of Fords. This year the six races have been won by three Fords and three Chevys with Dodge locked out of victory lane to date.
The top 10 drivers in points compete in three Fords, four Chevys and three Dodges.
Scott Wimmer was the top finishing rookie in thirteenth place.
Matt Kenseth leads all drivers with five top 10 finishes in the six Cup races run this year.
Kenseth is tied for the most top 5 finishes in those six races with three other drivers; Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne.
Ryan Newman, Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch all now have nine career Cup victories. They're one victory behind Sterling Marlin and two behind Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Ken Schrader scored his first top 10 finish since Michigan last August. His sixth place result was his best finish since Talladega in the spring of 1999.
Sterling Marlin’s fourth place finish matched his best of the season. (Rockingham)
Michael Waltrip scored his first top 10 finish since Phoenix last fall.
Stanton Barrett did F-Troop (the field fillers) proud this week with a 32nd place finish. The rest of F-Troop was black flagged off the track so quickly Tony Stewart didn't even have a chance to hit them.
Jeff Gordon still hasn't managed a top 5 finish this season.
What's the Points?
Matt Kenseth holds onto the points lead but for the third weekend in a row we have a new second place points man. Kenseth now leads teammate Kurt Busch by 21 points. Former second place man Dale Earnhardt Jr. is now third 41 points behind Kenseth. Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman round out the top 5.
Inside the top 10 the biggest points loser was Kasey Kahne who slipped six spots to eleventh. Sterling Marlin made the biggest gain, advancing six spots into tenth place. Ryan Newman and Kevin Harvick also made nice advances. Each were up four spots to fifth and seventh in the standings respectively. Busch advanced two spots to take over second.
Other big gainers include Rusty Wallace and Ken Schrader who both moved up six spots. They're now 17th and 26th. McMurray advanced five spots to fourteenth pending any points penalties for his post-race antics.
Three drivers of note lost five points positions this week. Bobby Labonte fell five positions and out of the top 10. (He's now thirteenth.) Joe Nemechek and Ward Burton also lost five spots and they are now nineteenth and twentieth. Casey Mears lost another six spots and is now 23rd. (Mears had been tenth in the points just three races ago.) Mark Martin who had rallied from 43rd in the standings after Daytona to twelfth last week slipped three spots at Bristol to fifteenth.
Overall Rating - (On a scale of one to six beer cans with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) We'll give this one five icy cold cans of Colorado's finest and race a toast to someone with the power to change things having enough sense to add more short track races to the schedule.
Next Up - Residents of Dallas-Fort Worth are advised to check the supplies in their tornado shelters and lash an inflatable raft to the front porch. NASCAR is coming to town next week.