Bristol Rear View Mirror


The 500-lap grind had a little of everything including side-by-side racing, crumpled fenders, bent sheet metal and bruised emotions. (Photo: Getty Images)


I’m not sure if this is the “new” Bristol, the “new new” Bristol or some reasonable facsimile of the “old” Bristol Motor Speedway. But whatever it is, it’s pretty good.

Saturday night’s IRWIN Tools Night Race had the feel that has for whatever reason been missing in recent years. There was an electricity in the air and butts in nearly every seat of the massive racing coliseum on what turned out to be a pleasant Tennessee summer night.

The 500-lap grind had a little of everything including side-by-side racing, crumpled fenders, bent sheet metal and bruised emotions. Denny Hamlin made a new Bristol highlight reel with his HANS device toss toward Kevin Harvick, much to the delight of the crowd. Crosswords between several drivers were also hurled through the August air.

While the intensity of the racing was high most of the night there was a let down in the drama department once Jamie McMurray, who needs a win as his entre to the Chase, fell back in the pack leaving only those with playoff tickets already punched to battle for the victory.

But Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Matt Kenseth sliced and diced for the top spot in the closing laps before “Sliced Bread” took his third checkered flag of the season.

Racing at Bristol will probably never please everyone any longer. But Saturday night’s race should have at least won over the majority.

  • The struggles of Roush Fenway Racing have been well documented this season but this week brought some much-welcomed good news. Greg Biffle introduced his new sponsor for next year when ORTHO was announced as a backer for half the races on the 16 car. (Read More) Things kept going well for the team in Saturday night’s race when Biffle, Carl Edwards and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. all finished inside the top-10. There’s still work to be done for sure but for a few days at least things were looking up for RFR.
  • Kyle Busch came into the weekend with hopes of adding to his 16 career Bristol win total and perhaps sweeping the three-race weekend. But he left Saturday night with serious questions about the cohesiveness of the No. 18 Sprint Cup team. Busch was involved in an early accident and also endured a pit road speeding penalty to erase any hopes of winning the main event. But things went from bad to worse for Busch, who angrily left his car on pit road when he exited the race with a handful of laps remaining despite crew chief Dave Rogers instructing him to do otherwise. "Park it behind the truck and take your whiny little ass to the bus,” Rogers said over the team radio. (Read More) Busch’s frustration is understandable given the circumstances that came his way, but the behavior should raise more than a few concerns about the team’s ability to compete for a title. Simply said, Busch and Rogers need to find a way to harness the emotional outbursts before they can be seriously considered championship material.
  • The remarkable thing about Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s season goes beyond the three victories but add in the 88 team’s incredibly resiliency as well. Earnhardt got caught up as an innocent bystander in a lap 161 accident that saw leader Denny Hamlin get clipped by Kevin Harvick (Read More), slide into the inside pit wall and back out to the track directly in front of Earnhardt. “I couldn’t see what happened to Denny, but he got turned around or something and was coming up the track," Earnhardt said. "There was a lot of smoke so I couldn’t really judge the speed of his car to know whether I needed to be going up there and go around him on the top. I had to make that choice. I just went ahead and went to the top and ended up getting into him." Earnhardt tried to return more than 100 laps down after repairs but finally gave up and didn’t finish a race for only the second time this season.
  • NASCAR will announce the 2015 schedules for all three top divisions this Tuesday but a piece of the puzzle was announced over the weekend. Bristol will move its spring date basically back a month and April 19th is the new date for the Tennessee short track. From a weather perspective, while there are no guarantees, that should make it certainly a better opportunity for Mother Nature to provide better conditions than recent years. (Read More)

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.

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