It seemed like a good idea. The planning was extensive. The engineering of it was measured to the last bucket.

The wild card, as it can be on a race weekend, was the same as always. After the planning and hauling and making ready, it was the weather that dropped the ball…. Or the water as it is…

Here’s the thing… And it may or may not be a big thing… But dirt on the track at Bristol for a NASCAR Cup race is a gimmick. Granted, it’s a good one. But it is what it is. It’s a twist on a classic race at a historic facility to draw some attention and make a good show.

We’ll see… The drivers couldn’t. Practice went well on the dry surface. Except for the tires wearing really quickly… And the track surface rutting up… And the inconsistency of the racing lines… Traditional dirt races on real dirt tracks are not as long and the track is refreshed at intervals. The Cup race at Bristol doesn’t have these options for a number of reasons.

However, throw in a day of rain and the Camping World Trucks trying to get the qualifying races in and you get two laps of a mess. On the dry side, it was still a bit of a mess… When you look a little closer.

The rain has already pushed the truck race to run after the Cup race on Sunday. (If they run… The weather doesn’t look that great…)

If all had gone without the rain it was still a gimmick that could turn either way. From seeing how the Super Late Models ran the week before the one big drawback is apparent. Put it this way… Reminding fans to wear masks in the stands maybe wasn’t a necessity.

Dirt tracks aren’t surrounded by a stadium several stories tall. The open air of those small dirt tracks lets the dust from lap after lap drift away. The bowl that is Bristol holds all of that in with little means of escape. Cover your beer, and your face…

Now with the rain that hardpack dirt gets tossed up under tires and thrown back on the grills and windshields of every car in the pack. The mud sticks like glue and packs up like brown concrete. Drivers can’t see anything and engines can’t cool. Throw out the radiators and drive blindfolded…

But fans can see and breathe… Every single one of the two laps before the red flag gets thrown.

The practice sessions on the dry track put out so much dust the TV cameras could barely view the other end of the track. Now… Half way through the race the surface would likely be packed and “rubbered” up on the low and high line. The dust would likely ease by then.

We’ll see. It might be Monday… But we’ll see…

Rain and racing. It is not a good mix but Bristol held out and went under the lights for the Food City 500 and the fans that hung in there saw a really good race full of what makes Bristol such a thing.

It is short track racing in a bowl and they mixed it up nicely. Bumps, spins and tangles put some in the garage and everyone that crossed the finish had some kind of battle damage.

The race started a bit late and went 22 laps before a caution and rain during clean up put the covers on and Penske team mates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski in the garage.

Several hours later the lights were coming on and the laps were being run. At the end of the day, or night, it was Matt Kenseth crossing where he started… In front. Other contenders and front runners were caught up in accidents that put them either off the pace or off the track completely.

Kevin Harvick, out front for a lion’s share, saw his run stop quickly when he caught the aftermath of a Jeb Burton spin which was set off by a touch from Jimmie Johnson. Harvick’s #4 Chevy was heavily damaged and out of the run.

Stewart-Haas team mate Kurt Busch was also putting in a run for the front but a late race pit for fresh tires put him in 6th on the restart and with 8 laps to go was suddenly stopped when Carl Edwards lost it running with Gordon near the front. Busch and the #41 had no place to go but into Edward’s #19.

The remaining Stewart-Haas drivers, Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick, managed to roll out with top 10 finishes.
Jimmie Johnson, despite damage and being well in the back at one point, managed to get back to second place with team mate Jeff Gordon right behind. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Ryan Newman filled the top 5.

Bristol was a boost for many in the field. Danica Patrick continues to run well with this top 10. It was Stewart’s best finish this season. Matt Kenseth has his first win since 2013. Gordon also needed a good run with not so hot performance in his last full season. Newman in the top 5 was a good run following the penalties for his team over tire handling issues.

There was also drama around the #11 and Denny Hamlin. The weather, the starting and stopping or just luck put him in a painful situation with a stiff neck. The long rain delay saw no real relief and the decision was made to put Xfinity driver Erik Jones into the #11 which he had never driven and was set, of course, for Hamlin. Jones finished 26th in his Sprint Cup “trial by Bristol fire” debut.

Now the focus rolls into Richmond. The scheduled night race of the Toyota Owners 400 is ramping up. The Xfinity series runs the night before. Some of the drivers will also be rolling out Thursday night in South Boston for the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown with the area’s top late model locals.

Hamlin should be loosened up and ready for his big charity event at SoBo and Richmon for the weekend.
Go Racing!

Bristol. They tinkered with it and made it a race track instead of a bang’em and rack’em horsepower brawl. The re-surface in 2007 removed the groove and put racing over banging. The push and shove inner lane was opened to full track grip giving more lines for drivers to ride. For racing, passing and team strategies it was all good.

Fans, however, fell true to stereotypes and were not impressed with drivers doing their jobs and racing without wrecking. Fans wanted to see the faster guy bump and shove the slower guy out of the groove. If that meant a spin into the wall and sour tempers in the garage then that was just foam on the beer. (more…)

Yes, Virginia, your racing season is on!

The racing season is winding down but the tension is rising. Just have a look at NASCAR. The last few races have seen the variety of winners with circumstances rotating through the points lead. Currently, the lead is on with Greg Biffle who also held it early in the season.

Dale Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth have also rotated through the lead. The last few races have change off on leader points like right front tires on pit stops. The season is in high gear and the state of Virginia gets the lion’s share of the action.

Bristol is this weekend. Anything can happen here as the “Chase” winds through the final points races to get in. Face it, Bristol is a strip of pavement in a fishbowl. Throw in 43 cars looking for a win with a good portion of them looking for “Chase” points and you get eggs in a blender. Bristol is one for Virginia fans.

Yes, Tennessee, we know. But what is a few miles, really? (more…)