Love Him Or Hate Him, Kyle Busch Owns Bristol

Robert JonesContributor IAugust 23, 2010

BRISTOL, TN - AUGUST 20:  Brad Keselowski, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Dodge, spins out after an incident with Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Z-Line Designs Toyota, during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Food City 250 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 20, 2010 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jared C. Tilton /Getty Images

Kyle Busch had a weekend for the ages at Bristol Motor Speedway. By sweeping the Truck Series, Nationwide, and Nextel Cup races, Busch became the first driver in NASCAR history to win all three major series races at the same track in the same week. His recent success at the high-banked, super-fast half mile continues a Bristol legacy of dominance by one driver.

While the three wins at one track is a milestone, some perspective is in order. The legendary drivers who mastered Thunder Valley in the past never had the opportunity to win three major races in a week, because there never were three major races held in one week. The Camping World Truck Series only began in the 1990's, so Cale Yarborough and Darrel Waltrip, the half-mile masters of the 70's and 80's respectively, could not have won three major races on as many nights. Waltrip won seven straight Cup races beginning in 1981, so there is little doubt that he would have prevailed if they were racing wheelbarrows or bicycles in his era.

Rusty Wallace was the big dog at Bristol beginning with his first Cup victory in 1986. Wallace notched eight wins over several years, even with different race teams. Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Mark Martin also saw success in the 90's, giving way to Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch's older brother Kurt at the turn of the century.

As with most events involving Kyle Busch, the unprecedented sweep was not without controversy. Busch's victory in the Nationwide Series race on Friday came at the expense of rival Brad Keselowski, who is on probation for earlier incidents with Carl Edwards and thus could not respond in kind to being (admittedly) "dumped" by Busch. The wreck led to speculation that Keselowski would pay Busch back in the Nextel Cup race, and caused Keselowski to announce in Saturday driver introductions that "Kyle Busch is an ass."

So with the hype machine in full throttle, including a suggestion from ESPN/ABC analyst and former Cup champion Dale Jarrett that Keselowski "punch him (Kyle Busch) in the nose," Saturday's race audience was primed for the type of slam-bang action that made Bristol famous before the track was reconfigured.

It was not to be, as Kyle Busch dominated on the now much wider, multi-grooved concrete surface. Ironically, what would be considered close, exciting side-by-side racing at most tracks is actually disappointing to fans of the old bump-and-run Bristol. At the end of the night, two facts clearly stood out: It's not your father's Bristol anymore, and Kyle Busch owns it.