One cliche that sometimes makes its way into the realm of racing is “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” So when the decision to reconfigure the Bristol Motor Speedway was made and completed in the summer of 2007 prior to the fall event, it was met with praise from former drivers, including legends of the track, and current stars.
But the one thing it didn’t please at all was the fan base. Bristol is 0.533-miles in length, and is NASCAR’s “Coliseum” as the fans surround the track like the famous Roman building.
Unfortunately, the progressive banking that was put down, which provided multiple racing lanes, may’ve provided drivers with new options to pass, but it was costing the fans what made the track famous.
Earlier this year, this track looked as if it was half full. Bristol has a capacity seating of around 165,000 fans, but they were lucky if they eclipsed 100,000 that weekend. The backstretch alone looked bare, which was sad.
So, in an effort to try and bring back the racing that made Bristol what it was, track owners decided to take a grinder to the top groove, taking away part of the banking and making it more even. This would narrow the racing lanes and cause a bit of aggression in order to make the needed passes.
The first official test of this surface was Saturday night, and in a surprising twist, it did work but not how it was expected.
The grinding of the top groove actually became the preferred line around the track, and it became difficult to pass on the low side unless a car was bumped out of the way. This caused some intense racing, and also brought back the infamous Bristol heated exchanges that made this place famous.
Ryan Newman got spun out by a familiar foe on the track in the name of Juan Pablo Montoya, a rivalry that has seen quite a few run-ins in their past. Danica Patrick showed her displeasure at Regan Smith after a late wreck, pointing the finger at him to blame, but not the one you’re thinking of.
The most talked about incident was between Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart, who were battling for the lead when the two got together. Kenseth hit the inside wall, Stewart then slammed into his car. Kenseth was able to restart and continue around the track, but Stewart was not as lucky. So, after getting out of his car, his anger seething, Stewart saw his opportunity to get some minor payback. So, as Kenseth’s No. 17 came around the track, Stewart decided to do his best baseball pitch and threw his helmet and HANS device right at the nose of Kenseth’s Ford.
It may not get him to the Olympics, but it did get the message across.
If fans wanted some of the “Old Bristol” to come back, they certainly got their wish. Torn up cars, hot tempers, and a lot of discussion topics were what will be remembered about this race.
Bristol is back, baby!
RESULTS: 1-Hamlin 2-Johnson 3-Gordon 4-Vickers 5-Ambrose 6-Kyle Busch 7-Bowyer 8-Logano 9-Kahne 10-Menard
NOTABLE FINISHES: 12-Earnhardt Jr. 15-Harvick 19-Biffle 22-Edwards 25-Kenseth 27-Stewart 30-Keselowski
CAUTIONS: 13 for 87 laps. Lap 11-17 (#32, 49 accident-FS), 83-89 (Debris-T2), 123-129 (#22, 34 accident-T4), 149-158 (#34 spin-T4), 192-199 (#42, 39, 31 accident-T4), 225-230 (#43, 38 accident-T1), 272-276 (#2, 47 accident-BS), 323-328 (#78, 51 accident-FS), 334-339 (#14, 17 accident-FS), 347-352 (#36 accident-T1), 415-419 (#13 accident-T1 and T2), 424-429 (Debris-T1), 436-443 (#10, 78 accident-FS).
LEAD CHANGES: 22 among 13 drivers. Mears 1-26, Loano 27-84, Hamlin 85, Loano 86-107, Kahne 108-149, Logano 150-192, Earnhardt Jr. 193-205, Hamlin 206-226, Biffle 227-253, Kenseth 254-272, Johnson 273-324, Hamlin 325, Kenseth 326-331, Stewart 332, Logano 333-348, Ambrose 349, Biffle 350-363, Truex Jr. 364-407, Hamlin 408-415, Edwards 416-443, Vickers 444, Edwards 445-461, Hamlin 462-500.
TIME OF RACE: 3 Hrs, 9 Mins, 27 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 84.402 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 1.103 Seconds
POINT STANDINGS (Top-10, Wild Cards): 1. Biffle, 849 Points*; 2. Johnson, -11*; 3. Earnhardt Jr, -15*; 4. Kenseth, -26*; 5. Truex Jr, -52; 6. Bowyer, -55; 7. Keselowski, -59; 8. Hamlin, -75; 9. Harvick, -82; 10. Stewart, -103. WILD CARDS: Kahne (11th, 2 wins), Kyle Busch (13th, 1 win).
*Clinched spot in 2012 Chase for the Cup