Hot Laps

Old Bristol vs. new Bristol has been a topic of conversation since the track was reconfigured a couple of years ago.

There's a faction of fans who miss the former rock 'em sock 'em style of racing that was the norm at the half mile track for years.

Others prefer the new multi-groove layout that provides two and sometimes three wide racing.

I can tell you for sure the majority of the drivers like today's Bristol and the racing we saw all weekend starting with Wednesday's modified-truck series doubleheader provided its share of side-by-side thrills.

Saturday night's Sharpie 500 had its moments and thankfully the last 50 laps were about as good as racing as we've seen this year.

But I'll admit there was something missing in large portions of the annual late summer visit to "Thunder Valley."

I'm not a fan of 20 cautions flags and wreck after wreck, which was the standard practice in Bristol's past. I prefer seeing someone actually pass for a spot rather than simply punting them out of the way.

But there were some kind of passive stretches Saturday night that didn't generate wall to wall excitement anyway over the more than three hour race.

Double file restarts certainly helped and the late race passing shower, couple with Chad Knaus' inexplicable decision to pit, turned things upside down.

I think as the track continues to wear we'll get the best of both worlds in future visits to Bristol. Close racing, thrilling passes for position and a few sparks along the way.

Bristol in August may not be exactly as it was only three or four years ago but it's still very good and a night I continue to look forward to every season.

My guess is it will get even better as we move along.

  • It's not often you see the 48 team give races away but there's no other way to describe the decision to pit while leading Saturday night. Even without the lug nut problems on the tire change that forced Jimmie Johnson back to pit road, the call for four tires when Johnson clearly had the best car on the track shows that even the best in the business can falter once in a while.

  • On the other hand why Brian Pattie did not pit Juan Pablo Montoya under caution late in the race when there was clearly a problem on the No. 42 car could have turned out catastrophic in terms of the team's Chase chances. Like the decision for Mark Martin to gamble on fuel last week in Michigan, I wouldn't have had the stomach to do anything but play it safe with the playoff hopes so clearly on the line.

  • Marcos Ambrose continued his prowess on the short tracks and his impressive performance in the former road racing expert's first full-time Sprint Cup season. Ambrose was no doubt sitting patiently in third waiting any potential fireworks between Kyle Busch and Mark Martin for a possible trip to victory lane. A tenth and a third in two career starts at Bristol is not too shabby to say the least.

  • Speaking of Chase chances Clint Bowyer's took a severe hit Saturday night when he was involved in what seemed like a dozen incidents or near misses, the last of which found the No. 33 spinning wildly into Michael Waltrip's disabled car. Bowyer was understandably upset after the race and the dismal RCR season continues to swallow up the entire team.
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