How do you like me now? The Bristol of old is back
After a great night under the lights, Darrell Waltrip believes fans got their wish and the old Bristol is finally back.
Big crowds, hard racing, and hot tempers. Darrell Waltrip says the old Bristol is back.
Rainier Ehrhardt / Getty Images North America
By Darrell Waltrip
So all we've heard for years was fans saying they missed their old Bristol and they wanted it back. They just didn't feel like the new Bristol was the same. Some fans were so upset that they said the racing wasn't any good there any more so they quit going to the track. Well, guess what? Saturday night was Bristol, baby! You got your old Bristol back.
Granted it is different, I'll give you that. As you know we used to fight for the bottom. You had to get on the bottom of that race track and dig. The only way to get around someone was to bump them, nerf them, boot'em, push'em up the hill or whatever it took so you could get under them.
It's not that way now. The groove is around the top of the race track. I was thinking about it -- some of the best short tracks all over the country have racing where they are right up next to the fence. Sure, if you can get your car to hook up, then there is plenty of room at the bottom, but just like at Bristol, up top is where you want to be. If the groove is up high, then you want to make your car work down low and vice-versa. That's just the way racing goes.
What I saw Saturday night was what I have seen at Bristol for years. You had drivers being aggressive and fighting. Look no further than Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin. Denny's on the top with Kevin on the bottom when they come off Turn 4. Kevin pushes up a little bit and gets into the left rear of Denny's car and sends him sailing. Now that was bad enough but then while he's spinning, Denny takes out Dale Jr. So there were two really good race cars that both had a chance of winning wiped out in one wreck.
This was the old Bristol with the tempers flaring. Denny said he had never been so mad. Dale Jr. was so mad he simply stormed away. That's the way Bristol has always been. It's a highly emotional race track. I always tell you, "It's good to play with emotions -- just don't let emotions play with you."
That's what Bristol does to a driver. It sets you up. It sucks you in. It's 500 laps and the longer you run the more irritated you become. The longer you run the more aggravated you get. That's just the way Bristol is. That's what makes it so much fun to win there. The driver that can keep his emotions in check, not run over anybody, not get anybody mad at them and keep their car clean and run 500 laps flawlessly is going to win. It's just so hard to do. It's one of the hardest things you will ever have to do. Trust me, I know and I don't think I have to tell you how I know. I just know.
When you look back at all the racing at Bristol this past week it was just some awesome stuff. Sure Mother Nature played havoc with the truck race Wednesday night, but come Thursday morning Brad Keselowski not only wins his first-ever truck race but he does it at Bristol of all places. He joins a select group that has now won in all three of NASCAR major touring divisions.
Fast forward to Friday night and you had the battle of the kid versus the veteran. Ryan Blaney is a good little wheel man. We know that the No. 22 car is potent because it wins a lot. So you had Kyle Busch as the leader on the restart in the No. 54 with Blaney on the inside. With only seven laps to go it all comes down to the restart and the kid snookers the old veteran.
I almost thought NASCAR was going to black flag Blaney but they didn't. They both were playing games with each other because that's what all the drivers do these days on restarts. Little Blaney timed it perfectly, beating Kyle on the restart, and won the race.
So you had a Ford winning on Thursday morning with Brad, then you had a Ford winning on Friday night with Blaney and then naturally you had Joey in his Ford winning Saturday night in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race. So Ford swept the weekend and that is a great accomplishment.
Saturday night was a good night for Matt Kenseth. Now I've said this in the past and I say it somewhat humorously, but I think it would absolutely incredible if Matt makes the Chase with no wins, which is how it's looking. What if he goes into the Chase and advances every week on points but no wins? What if Matt Kenseth won the championship with no wins? Now wouldn't that be something that folks would have to ponder.
So Saturday night reminded me of the old days. We had action on the track. We had tempers flaring. We even saw Denny hurl his HANS device at Kevin's car after Kevin wrecked the No. 11 out. Remember NASCAR's new rule -- you have to stay by your car. Denny did that but after heaving his HANS device at Kevin's car, NASCAR might just have to add another paragraph to that rule prohibiting you from throwing something at the traffic coming by you.
So we saw everything we hoped to see when it comes to racing at Bristol. I was absolutely thrilled to see the crowd they had. That was just great to see that place packed again and the fans definitely got their monies worth. We all got to see one of the best races we've seen there in a long, long time.
It just was some fantastic racing we saw at Bristol and it also included what I think is the crew chief to driver "quote of the year." Kyle Busch had been leading the race, but got a speeding penalty and had to go to the rear. Well it came as no big surprise that back there Kyle got into a wreck. I mean c'mon, that's pretty predictable.
It was when Kyle came on the radio complaining that crew chief Dave Rodgers spoke those immortal words -- "Park it behind the truck and take your whiny little ass to the bus." That is absolutely classic. I don't care if you are Larry the Cable Guy or Jeff Foxworthy -- that right there is funny!