Bristol Race Recap
August 29, 2004 | 12:20 A.M. EST
In a Nutshell- Hardly the best ever Bristol night race, but an average Bristol night race beats the best races at some tracks and the win is going to be very popular with a large segment of fans who don't care if their boy stunk up the show.
Dramatic Moment - Earlier in the event there was some good tight racing with Earnhardt and Rusty Wallace swapping the top spot back and forth.
Wrecks on the restarts following the seventh and eighth caution periods really scrambled up the field and hurt some key contenders.
What They'll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week
Was Jeff Gordon's black flag penalty legitimate or a blown call by NASCAR? Why didn't TNT follow up on the story like they did with the Martin lug nut incident last week?
How could a driver of Mark Martin's caliber have a mental lapse and drive all the way around pit road during a green flag stop? (Jeff Gordon did the same thing in the previous two Bristol races.)
So what are you doing next weekend since you won't be watching the race?
What was going on during the middle portions of the race? 200 laps without a caution? It was like a round of lawn croquet had broken out at Bristol.
How soon can they build more seats at Bristol? Why hasn't anyone cloned Bristol? (Note to track developers: do it in asphalt climate permitting to open up a second groove.)
Does the threat to park Robby Gordon if he hits anyone else extend to California next week?
I think we've got a new nominee for the stupidest question ever asked in Victory Lane. (And it's a competitive field.) Bill Weber to Dale Junior: Are you going to celebrate?
So let's see. Kevin Harvick's arm fell asleep in the car because of problems with the design of his seat. Thank goodness they got the headrests right. I'd hate to see how that boy races with his head asleep.
The water barrels guarding pit road leaked? Seriously, what else can go wrong at a professionally sanctioned race?
Is there any sillier oxymoron than "new tradition"? It reminds me of that sign in Vermont "New antiques built daily."
Will the 8 team be able to ride the momentum from tonight's race or will they struggle again on a fast flat speedway like they have been most of the year.
The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune
It could be argued that anyone not driving the 8 car tonight was in for a long evening.
Joe Nemechek had just about cleared Scott Wimmer's spinning car when he got clipped in the rear bumper and sent on a one way ride hard into the outside wall.
Carl Edwards second cup start didn't go as well as his first. He got caught up in the lap 389 wreck that started when his teammate hit the 25 car.
It's hard to decide whether to lump Dale Jarrett under "foul fortune" or "fine fortune" tonight. As badly as his car was hurt Jarrett was lucky to finish tenth. But he'd been running second when DJ became the latest victim of Robby Gordon's waning days at RCR racing. But he was also lucky to sneak through the mess on the restart after that caution.
Rusty Wallace's bid to win a tenth Bristol race was ended when he ran out of gas. He also had his car torn up in the restart after the eighth caution.
Kasey Kahne started on the outside pole but fell back quickly. He also got a piece of the wreck that bought out the ninth caution. His 21st place finish dropped him out of the top 10 in points.
The reunion of Ricky Rudd and Fatback McSwain (the third time they've worked together on different teams) did not go as planned with a 40th place finish.
The "Seven Come Fore Eleven" Award For Fine Fortune
Earnhardt Jr. almost wrecked himself out running into the back of the 10 car while leading the race.
Matt Kenseth had two close calls slipping by wrecks on lap 90 and 365.
Jimmie Johnson was forced to a backup car after wrecking in Happy Hour but still finished third. The weird thing is he finished!
Ryan Newman got blocked in by Jeff Gordon on one sequence of pit stops and lost a ton of track position but he recovered to finish second.
Kurt Busch came back from a lap down to finish eighth.
Sterling Marlin finished sixth despite getting spun out during the mess that bought out the eighth caution.
Junior's win ties him with Jimmie Johnson for the second most by any driver this season. Jeff Gordon has five victories. Earnhardt was the first driver to win both the Cup and Busch races at Bristol in a single weekend.
Johnson continues to lead all drivers with fifteen top 5 finishes. (Earnhardt has eleven and Gordon has ten.) Gordon leads all drivers with seventeen top 10 finishes. (Johnson has sixteen, Matt Kenseth has fifteen, and Junior has fourteen.)
Nine cautions was the least amount of yellow flags to slow a Bristol race since the spring of 1997.
Junior scored his first top 5 on an oval track since Daytona.
Ryan Newman scored his first top 5 finish since New Hampshire and only his second since winning at Michigan.
Jimmie Johnson finished a race for the first time in four events. He last finished a race when he won at Pocono on August 1st.
Elliott Sadler scored his third top 10 finish in the last five races.
Sterling Marlin scored his best finish since he also came home sixth at Michigan.
Jamie McMurray finished seventh for the third time in the last six races.
Kurt Busch now has four straight top 10 finishes.
Matt Kenseth has top 10 finishes in five of the last six races.
Bobby Labonte's last top 10 finish was at Daytona seven races ago.
Scott Riggs in seventeenth had his best finish since Pocono in June.
Michael Waltrip has now gone five races without a top 10 finish.
For a second straight week (and in only his second drive for the team) Jeff Burton scored the best finish the RCR 30 team has enjoyed this year. Apparently there's nothing wrong with the RCR cars. It's just the drivers. The fourth place finish also equaled Burton's personal best for the season.
The top 10 finishers drove four Fords, three Chevys and three Dodges.
Scott Riggs was the top finishing rookie in seventeenth.
What's the Points?
Jeff Gordon retains the points lead but it shrinks to 24 points over his teammate Jimmie Johnson in second. Earnhardt Jr. remains in third but is now just 75 points back. Despite some of the talking heads trying to say this year's championship would be "boring" without the Chase for the Championship nonsense that's a tight battle between three big name drivers and Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart would still be in the hunt as well. Phooey on the new system!. (Gordon, Johnson and Earnhardt are now locked into the top 10.)
There wasn't much movement within the top 10. The notable exception was Ryan Newman who sprung up three positions back to tenth. Kasey Kahne fell one spot to eleventh. Jeremy Mayfield fell two spots to thirteenth. (Mark Martin and Mayfield are technically tied in twelfth with 2883 points. Dale Jarrett and Jamie McMurray are also tied for fourteenth with 2873 points. Those two drivers are within 45 points of the top 10.)
In the battle to fall out of the top 10 eighth place Kevin Harvick, ninth place Bobby Labonte and tenth place Newman are separated by just five points. Harvick is just 33 points out of eleventh.
All drivers from seventeenth place Michael Waltrip on down are now eliminated from playoff contention. (That list includes Greg Biffle, Sterling Marlin, Terry Labonte and Rusty Wallace.) Somewhere down there in the Land of Unwanted Toys Jeff Burton advanced two spots to twentieth and Rusty Wallace fell two spots to 21st.
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 it four cans of cold Bud cause nothing beats the Bristol night race.
Next Up - Here's what I know. Next weekend is the Labor Day weekend. On Labor Day weekend the Cup cars are supposed to compete in the Southern 500 at Darlington. They won't be. As such I will not watch or write about the blasphemous abomination of a race that will take place next weekend. If you're a fan of stock car racing rather than the NASCAR sanctioning body, I urge you to vote with your remote and boycott next weekend's race as well. As far as I am concerned Cup racing starts again at Richmond in two weeks.