“A house is made of walls and beams; a home is built with love and dreams.” – Unknown
This week 43 of the world’s greatest drivers embarked on a great adventure. This week they found themselves standing at the doors of the last great coliseum of racing. A track that consistently plays host to 160,000 enthusiastic fans. All anxious to see their favorite driver, conquer the 30 degree concrete banks of the jewel of east Tennessee.
This coliseum tests tempers, equipment and the patience of all who run here. But if you are a warrior, if you persist and if the jewel smiles on you - you will join the elite class of champions that have tasted the fine vintage and most sought after of victories in NASCAR. Champions whose names are still synonymous and defining of our sport, names like Rusty Wallace, Dale Earnhardt Sr. Terry Labonte, Darrell Waltrip, to name a few. She is loyal to her chosen champion and he will ultimately earn the title of short track king. Because if you can win here, you have what it takes to win anywhere.
The jewel has yet to pick her new crown prince to replace her favorite son Rusty Wallace. Will it be a veteran driver like, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Burton, Jeff Gordon, or Kyle Busch? Or will it be a new comer like Brad Keselowski or Reed Sorenson? That is a question that only time would answer. The secrets of this jewel are not easily found and they are treasured and guarded once they are. This is what stock car racing is all about. Saturday night, cinch your belts, grab the wheel find your guts and let’s go racing.
You will respect her. You will either give your respect or she will take it. But you will learn to respect the crown jewel of motor sports.
To quote NASCAR’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr. "Victory lane at Bristol! It doesn't get any better than this." So welcome folks to the crown jewel of East Tennessee. Welcome to Bristol.
Once again, Bristol did not disappoint. With her graduated banking she provided a multi-groove race surface that was not only fast but allowed more competitive racing than we have seen anywhere else on the circuit.
As has been the case many times this season, Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson dominated the show. A strong and dominating performance from Jimmie Johnson came up short when on the restart on lap 262 he tangled with Juan Pablo Montoya and found himself in the garage under going repairs to a badly wrecked race car. Returning to the track 26 laps down, Johnson would finish 35th.
Kyle Busch on the other hand was a man on a mission, seeking a three race sweep in a single weekend and avoiding incidental or intentional contact with Brad Keselowski after a slide job gone badly the night before in the Nationwide race. Busch would dominate the race leading the most laps and truly never being challenged for more than a couple of laps on restarts. His dominance gave him a record never before held in NASCAR, the sweep in all 3 national touring series.
This race seemed to bring more questions about the power house teams. What has happened to HMS? One wrecked car. One that would run and could race but couldn't hold it's own for a full tire run, one car that continued to struggle bitterly with a driver carrying it on his back to the checkers. And one that just never seemed to be a factor in the competition at all. Although, this is not indicative of the performances we are use to seeing from HMS it appears, at least in the last several races, to be the course for their 2010 season.
RCR, which had shown dominance to this point, was a victim to a fickle Bristol as well, with only Clint Bowyer seeming to find the handle on the concrete princess.
Penske Racing ruled Bristol for 10 years even its flagship car, the Miller Lite Dodge driven by Kurt Busch, could make no headway at Bristol.
Although Kyle Busch was a dominate winner. The same can not be said for the rest of the JGR stable. A struggling Denny Hamlin held on to finish 34th and Joey Logano was a disappointing 18th.
The drama of the 88 and Dale Earnhardt Jr continued with Junior Nation shaking it’s heads in the grandstands over communication or lack there of between the driver and crew chief. After a very successful outing in the Nationwide Series, which saw Earnhardt Jr go a lap down early and then come back for a strong 4th place finish, the 88 Sprint Cup ride struggled the entire day with a loose car.
Remembering that listening to scanner communication is literally eves dropping and considering that no one knows the background on the conversations, I am making an observation based strictly on what was heard and it seemed there was friction between driver and crew chief over that performance (Nationwide) when Lance McGrew asked his driver, “Fine, since this is the part of the race when you want to argue with me, What would Pops do?” One has to question at times if Mr. McGrew forgets that Junior Nation is listening and if he is aware that he is not making any fans with those type comments.
I was impressed with the honesty of Chad Knaus after the race when he commented regarding Jimmie Johnson's problem, that he didn't know how to set a car up for this track and his driver couldn't get a handle on this track. Johnson himself stated that the incident with Montoya was “just a product of racing at Bristol. I don’t think it was anything intentional.” Honesty and championship attitude is refreshing. "To admit one's short coming and build on your strengths is the mark of a championship dynasty." -- Roger Penske.
It had been quite awhile since I had been home. Life has dealt some blows. Some fair some not. Some were of my own making. Some were the result of devious and envious people. There were troubles that were nagging me deeply with questions I couldn’t answer. So when I rounded the bend in the road and saw her sitting there, I was surprised to feel myself sigh deeply. Suddenly there was one word in my heart and in my head. That word was Home. There in front of me. It was close enough to smell it, see it, and I could almost touch it. I was home. And this was Bristol.
Many Many congratulations to Kyle Busch on his sweep of NASCAR’s weekend in Bristol. He may not be a fan favorite but there is simply no denying the young man’s talent behind the wheel of a race vehicle. Maturity comes with time and life experience. It will be his someday. Congratulations also to Ryan Newman on his victory in NASCAR’s Whalen Modified Series Race on Wednesday. Incredible competition by all 4 series all weekend long.
And finally to all the competitors in all the series thanks for giving us everything you had to give, you are our heroes. Most importantly, thanks to all the families who shared their loved ones with us so we could cheer our favorite driver and favorite teams. You are the true heroes of the sport and we are forever in your debt.