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NASCAR Bristol postscript

by Dave Grayson
Tuesday, August 24, 2010

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Kyle Busch sent Bad Brad Keselowski spinning
Getty Images for NASCAR
During the Bristol Motor Speedway's Festival Of Speed we witnessed a young driver create NASCAR history that had him literally sweeping victory lane. We were entertained by another episode from "Bad Brad" who once again found himself the unwanted center of attention. We also witnessed another free fall by a four time NASCAR champion that has us all wondering what's going on. With those thoughts in mind, let's begin with:

HOORAH for Kyle Busch for sweeping all three races at the Bristol Motor Speedway and setting a new NASCAR record that may never be broken anytime soon if at all. There is a small list of drivers who have the distinction of saying they won races in all three of NASCAR's national touring series at the same track. But in those cases there were long gaps of time between those wins. Kyle Busch toppled that feat in three consecutive races within a period of 72 hours. His accomplishment is indeed NASCAR history.

With that accomplishment came some equally impressive numbers. Busch now has 16 wins this season in NASCAR's big three national touring series. The breakdown is three wins in the Sprint Cup Series, three in the Camping World Truck Series and he tied his own Nationwide Series record, that he shares with Sam Ard, with ten wins. During the Bristol weekend Busch ran a total of 956 laps while leading 514 of them. The paychecks were hefty also. Busch collected a total of $432,001 during the three Bristol events.

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But WAZZUP with the drama that surrounded this amazing accomplishment? The attention grabbing drama started during Wednesday night's O'Reilly 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race. Busch, in his self owned Toyota, won the pole in qualifying only have to start at the back of the pack due to pre race engine repairs.

But the real drama in this truck race came at the end of the race. Some WAZZUP contact between Justin Lofton and David Starr, with only two laps left in the race, resulted in the Starr truck sliding up the track and into Ken Schrader's truck. The contact was hard and a red flag was thrown by officials in order to safely perform the track clean up.

The green-white-checker finish that was to come created another dramatic question for Busch to consider: was there enough fuel in the tank to run the overtime laps? The team only made one stop for fuel in the race while gambling there would not be any overtime. The problem lied in the fact that the high banks of Bristol, 24 to 30 degrees, caused all of the fuel to collect to the left side of the tank. Unfortunately the fuel pick up, that feeds the fuel line and pump, is located on the tank's right side. On the restart Busch admitted that the engine sputtered and he seriously wondered if he would make it to the checkers.

He got incredibly lucky coming into the final lap. Busch crossed under the white flag just as the final accident of the race presented the final caution flag. But even approaching the combined yellow and checkered flags his engine was sputtering. That's how close he came to losing this race.

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Friday night's Food City 250 also presented some WAZZUP drama as well. With 32 laps remaining, Busch and Brad Keselowski were racing hard for the race lead. Keselowski did a bump and run, which caused Busch to get loose and nudge the wall, and then passed for the lead. An angry Busch hooked him on the left rear quarter panel and turned him. Busch made it quite clear in victory lane that he didn't appreciate Keselowski racing him that way and made it even more clear that he intentionally "dumped him."

HOORAH to NASCAR for standing behind their "have it boys" policy established last January. NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton said they viewed the incident as "good, hard racing and no action will be taken."

HOORAH for the reaction that came from this incident. The anticipation that the hard feelings between the two drivers could spill over into Saturday night's Sprint Cup race led to a last day surge in ticket sales that filled a lot of expected empty seats. Saturday night's race drew 155,000 fans. Many of them stood in the rain Saturday afternoon to purchase tickets for that night.

That fact did not escape the attention of NASCAR icon Bobby Allison who quipped "I think old Brad and Kyle probably sold some tickets for tonight's race at the end of last night's race. There's nothing more a promoter loves than a good fight, or at least the chance there might be a fight."

That moment never came during Saturday night's race. In fact the two drivers used a great deal of common sense and caution whenever they found themselves racing together. But you can bet those 155,000 fans jumped to their feet every time these two drivers approached each other.

Kyle Busch led the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol by leading four times for a total of 283 laps. But WAZZUP with his mind playing tricks on him during the final laps? Busch radioed in and swore that the track bar mount fell off of his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Then he called back again and said it could be a possible flat tire. That was him hearing every little creak and groan from the car while trying to get that Bristol sweep.

Not only did he get the sweep and his third Sprint Cup win of the season, but he also moved to third in the points standings. All Busch had to do is just start the next two races and he will clinch a guaranteed spot in the Chase. Then again, the way he's running he will probably sew up the Chase berth at the Atlanta race.

HOORAH to Bristol Motor Speedway officials for presenting Busch an official broom in victory lane. A delighted race winner was only too happy to symbolically sweep the Bristol victory lane.

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HOORAH for some great one liners from some of the drivers during the driver introductions prior to the Sprint Cup Irwin Tools Night Race. The drivers were introduced to the fans backed by musical selections they picked out and were allowed to say a few words over the microphone.

When Kyle Busch was introduced he was presented with a giant bushel basket of freshly picked boo berries from the fans. The "Rowdy" one, who seems to revel in these moments, laughed and said "Y'all are so loving, I'm ready to win again."

His Friday night rival said "I'm Brad Keselowski, driver of the #12 Penske Dodge-Kyle Busch is an ass." Needless to say, that announcement was greeted with a standing ovation.

Driver A J Allmendinger said "I just hope I'm ahead of Kyle and Brad when this all goes down tonight."

Tony Stewart responded by saying "I do want to be around Brad and Kyle when they get together because I want to see a good wreck."

Carl Edwards, who's past problems with Keselowski has been very well documented, walked out on to the stage to the refrains of "Why Can't We Be Friends," the old classic by War from 1975.

HOORAH to the 155,000 Bristol Motor Speedway fans who stood and cheered after Kyle Busch completed the Bristol sweep. Many of them are not Kyle Busch fans, and never will be, but they truly respected his NASCAR history making moment.

Busch himself deserves another HOORAH for a typically sarcastic, but very funny, comment made during the traditional winner's post race press conference. A reporter asked him about Brad. Busch replied "who?" The reporter said "Brad Keselowski" and Busch replied "I've never heard of him." The reporter countered with "he drives the red #12 Dodge." Busch responded with "oh yeah, I seen him then I passed him."

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The Bristol Motor Speedway, with its progressive banking and concrete surface, can easily bring out the best and the worst of any driver. It will also run them through every human emotion you can name in between. The following is just a few examples.

HOORAH to Miguel Paludo, the Brazilian sports car champion who made his NASCAR debut last Wednesday in the Camping World Truck Series. Many racing observers said that Paludo and his team owners, the Germain Brothers, were completely nuts for staging a NASCAR debut at the Bristol Motor Speedway. However Paludo responded to the Bristol challenge and finished an amazing ninth and on the lead lap. Now those same critics are wondering if the Germain Brothers have landed something very special

HOORAH to Michael Waltrip Racing's David Reutimann for a strong second place finish in the Bristol Sprint Cup race despite spending two days in bed while suffering horribly from food poisoning.

HOORAH to Richard Childress Racing's Clint Bowyer who turned a 24th place starting berth into a fourth place finish in the Irwin Tools Night Race. More importantly, the good points night has returned Bowyer to the top 12 in points with a 100 point cushion over Jamie McMurray in 13th.

HOORAH to Jeff Gordon and the #24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet team for officially clinching his berth in the Chase line up at Bristol. That's the good news. The WAZZUP lies in the fact that the four time NASCAR champion, and multiple Bristol race winner, just couldn't seem to get a handle on his car's set up. He started 26th in the race due to a spin out in qualifying but did manage to claim an 11th place finish. It was, surprisingly, the best run of the four Hendrick cars.

Speaking of Hendrick teams, WAZZUP with Jimmie Johnson and the continuation of the #48 team's downward spiral? Midway through the race Johnson was hooked and turned by Juan Pablo Montoya into the wall. A split oil cooler forced Johnson behind the wall. Even worse, the latest round of bad luck has dropped the four time champion to ninth in the points, The good news is the fact that he's still 257 points ahead of 13th place in the standings and his five previous wins, along with the 50 bonus that comes with them, will return him to the top of the ranking when NASCAR resets the points for the 12 Chase contenders. But the point that cannot be overlooked here is the fact that this powerhouse team hasn't scored a top ten finish in the last seven races and everyone is wondering why that is.

Dale Earnhardt Jr gets a HOORAH for keeping his #88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in the top ten for much of the Bristol race although he faded to a 13th place finish by the end. But, for the kind of season this team is having, a 13th place finish has got to feel pretty good. Maybe the fact that Junior shaved his beard last weekend had something to do with it.

But WAZZUP with frustration and temperament again disrupting Earnhardt's communication levels with crew chief Lance McGrew? During Friday's final practice session Earnhardt came over the radio and yelled "this car is crap." Unfortunately, that doesn't exactly tell the crew chief that the car is so tight he's having trouble driving it. It actually doesn't tell anyone much of anything. More and more this level of communication is becoming a real problem between Earnhardt and McGrew and could turn out to the catalyst for a parting of the ways.

WAZZUP with more bad luck for the Sprint Cup Series' other five time winner? Denny Hamlin had to take his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota behind the wall for a reported bad vibration. It turned out that the problem was a snapped drive shaft which is a rarity in this day and age. Hamlin finished 34th in the race but still remains fifth in the Chase standings.

WAZZUP with Mark Martin and the mediocre performance of his #5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet? Many felt that Bristol might be a positive turning point for Martin and company because he has such strong numbers there. But the car didn't seem to ever hit it's stride and all the adjustments in the world couldn't seem to make it right. Martin finished 23d and unfortunately fell from 12th to 14th in the Chase standings. He's now 101 points from returning to the top 12. But, with only two regular season races left before the Chase begins, it appears that his championship hopes may be over.

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There were also a couple of bizarre WAZZUPS from Friday night's Food City 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race as well. The first one absolutely goes to that wild ride Kasey Kahne took on lap 82 in his #38 Braun Racing Toyota. Contact between Trevor Bayne and Justin Allgaier collected Kahne. The car went up on its side with his right side tires above the wall while his left side tires transported the car down the straightaway and into the turn. The entire scene resembled the old Joey Chitwood Thrill Show from days gone by. In a post wreck interview Kahne was diplomatic and said the wild was no big deal and he's been in worse situations.

Another WAZZUP goes to Mike Wallace, and his #01 J Davis Motorsports, due to some unbelievable bad luck at Bristol. It started on Saturday morning prior to qualifying when the Wallace car was pulled from the line. NASCAR's policy is to place a team on a five minute time clock and if they fail to return to the qualifying line in the allotted time then they are officially listed as a DNQ-did not qualify. Fortunately for Wallace his team is within the top 30 in owner's points so he was placed at the end of the field, 42nd position, for Friday night's race. The bizarre part here is the fact that the car was pulled from the line because they could not get their window safety net to fasten.

His appearance in the Food City 250 was equally frustrating. With only 24 laps remaining in the race, Wallace checked up to avoid to two car accident in front of him and then was collected by the very fast Clint Bowyer who was leading the race at the time. Wallace had to settle for a disappointing 31st place finish and probably couldn't wait to get home.

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The final HOORAH goes to a collection of fun race fans who were captured live by the SPEED Channel cameras. These guys were camping in the Bristol infield complete with a large inflatable swimming pool. Right in the middle of the pool was a fiery hibachi barbeque grill cooking dinner. That probably wasn't a good idea and it was likely a Budweiser moment but they were seriously having fun at the Bristol Motor Speedway.

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