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NASCAR Bristol postscript

by Dave Grayson
Tuesday, August 30, 2011

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During NASCAR's visit to the Bristol Motor Speedway we watched another round of "Bad Brad" looking really good. We watched new milestones in the Nationwide Series and we watched some bizarre circumstances that led to the latest round of a high profile driver feud. With those thoughts in mind, let's begin with:

THUMBS-UP to Brad Keselowski who once again overcame the pain of a fractured left ankle to win a physically demanding Sprint Cup race at Bristol. The win was his third of the season and, more importantly, guarantees him at least the first wild card berth that will place him in the lineup for the Sprint Cup Chase For The Championship. If Keselowski, and his Penske Racing Dodge team, can keep up their torrid pace, it's very likely that he will be in the top ten of the points which means he can use the bonus points from his three wins to get a high seed position in the official Chase line up. In his last four races Keselowski has finishes of first, second, third and first. This is all quite remarkable especially when you consider that just a few weeks ago this team was mired down in 25th in the points with no hopes of making the Chase.

Speaking of Keselowski making the Chase, WHAT'S-UP with Speed Channel analyst Jimmy Spencer having to eat a cigar during an upcoming live edition of the network's "Race Hub" program. In recent weeks Spencer went on record as saying there was no way Brad Keselowski was going to make the Chase line up. Then Spencer further stated that he would eat one of his signature cigars if he did. Bon Appetite Mr. Spencer. Keselowski is in the Chase.

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THUMBS-UP to the handful of teams that did their homework in terms of pit stall selections that helped them get around the electronic scoring loop that measures pit road speed. Bristol is unique in the fact that it has two pit roads but only one scoring loop on each of them. Through careful pit stall selections after qualifying a driver could exit his pit hard on the throttle, stab the brake pedal just prior to approaching the scoring loop and then speed down the remainder of pit road. This turned out to be a huge advantage for these teams in terms of gaining valuable track position. It was a huge factor in Keselowski's win.

Despite appearances on television, these teams were actually not doing anything wrong. However NASCAR was watching closely and, in the days following the race, announced that they would be adding more pit road scoring loops when the series returns to Bristol next spring.

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WHAT'S-UP with Kurt Busch not getting the rhythm with that pit road scoring loop? He was busted by NASCAR two times for speeding on pit road. The pass through penalties killed his track position and led to a 17th place finish.

WHAT'S-UP with Busch having an even worse day the following Monday. Busch was one of five drivers participating in a Goodyear tire test on the newly installed surface at the Phoenix International Raceway. Unfortunately in that process he blew a left rear tire and crashed hard into the turn one wall. The team had to roll out a backup car.

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WHAT'S-UP with the performance of Tony Stewart's Chevrolet during the Bristol race? The car was terrible during both practice sessions as well as qualifying and Stewart found himself starting the race from the 42nd position. Prior to the race he announced he wouldn't be back there very long but it was a prediction that just wasn't meant to become reality. He languished all during the race and finished 28th, three laps down. Stewart started the Bristol race tenth in the points just 24 markers ahead of Clint Bowyer. The saving grace here was the fact that Bowyer also had a bad night at Bristol and finished 26th, two laps down.

Heading into the Atlanta race next Sunday, Stewart remains tenth in the standings 21 points ahead of the red hot Brad Keselowski and 18 points behind Dale Earnhardt Jr in ninth. If Stewart is going to make the Chase line up he needs some strong improvement in the car's performance level and he needs it now.

On the brighter side of the race for the Chase, THUMBS-UP to the five drivers who have already clinched their Chase berths. Series points leader Kyle Busch came to Bristol already in the Chase. Following Bristol, drivers Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick are also now locked into the Chase. The remaining seven berths are going to get very interesting with only two events left until the Chase officially starts.

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WHAT'S-UP with Sprint Cup driver David Stremme not following his own advice? During pre race introductions the drivers were asked to choose their own walk on music and make a brief statement. Stremme said "have a nice night and hopefully we'll all keep a cool head."

On lap 299 of the race there was some contact between Stremme and David Reutimann. The television replay clearly showed that it was one of those no harm no foul racing deals typical of racing at Bristol. Unfortunately Stremme turned it into Bristol road rage and rammed Reutimann's Toyota causing major damage to both cars. Stremme is driving for Inception Motorsports, a new Sprint Cup team that ran its first race last April. This team doesn't exactly have the financial support of a full time primary sponsor and having to repair that much crash damage, that should have never happened to begin with, is something this team didn't need.

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THUMBS-UP to Kyle Busch for winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Bristol while setting more NASCAR records. The event marked his 50th series win, in 219 starts, and puts him on top of the series' all time winner's list. No matter what your opinion of this driver is, you have to at least respect this milestone in the Nationwide Series. To earn 50 win series' wins, at the age of 26, is simply astounding.

THUMBS-UP to the stunning one-two finish from Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing team mate Joey Logano in the Bristol Nationwide Series race. The side by side finish had a margin of victory of 0.019 seconds reported to be the closest finish in the 50 year history of racing at Bristol.

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With all due respects to those accomplishments, WHAT'S-UP with Kyle Busch's behavior during the course of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Bristol? During this race there was some contact between Busch and Elliot Sadler. The contact caused the Busch truck to slam into the wall. He drove away from the incident and no yellow flag was thrown.

The television replay clearly showed that this was a racing deal. Both drivers thought they were clear of each other before the initial contact was made. However, an angry Busch slowly motored around the track waiting for Sadler and then hit him hard in what was clearly an intentional act of retaliation. This action nearly caused an even larger wreck among the race traffic behind them. This was especially true in the case of James Buescher, a major player in the series championship, who barely got by unscathed.

The bizarre element came when Busch actually tried to blame Kevin Harvick for this incident citing the fact that Sadler is an employee of Kevin Harvick Inc. It's true that Sadler drives a KHI owned car in the NASCAR Nationwide Series but in the truck race he was driving for Joe Denette Motorsports. During a SPEED Channel interview, Busch was asked to justify his belief and said "who signs his, (Sadler's), paychecks, I'm not putting up with it anymore. "

While all of this was going on Kevin Harvick was on the track collecting a THUMBS-UP for winning his third, consecutive, truck series race.

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In some final thoughts, THUMBS-UP to the children of the MRO: Motor Racing Outreach, who sang "The National Anthem" prior to the Bristol Sprint Cup race. It was a precious thing to watch.

THUMBS-UP to the near capacity 156,000 fans, from 50 states and nine countries, who attended the Bristol NASCAR Sprint Cup race. THUMBS-UP to the Bristol Motor Speedway for its 50th anniversary. As a special tribute the speedway had the names of 1,000 season ticket holders placed on the retaining wall at the exit of turn four.

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