In one of the most anticipated races of the year, the Nationwide drivers headed to Thunder Valley for a date with NASCAR version of the Coliseum: Bristol Motor Speedway.
Check out this week’s winners and losers.
David Ragan is not even running the full time schedule, and yet he has notched two wins this year. He has won on the largest track, Talladega, and won on the smallest track, Bristol.
Ragan ran a smart race. He kept his car out of trouble, and he really had a great setup from the drop of the green flag. He ran in the top 10 for most of the race, and he made the perfect pass for the lead on his teammate Carl Edwards.
It was nice to see teammates seem to work together and guarantee themselves strong finishes and not wreck themselves out of a win. Edwards said "he would only go 98 percent on the restart" to not ruin a great points day.
Ragan has struggled in Cup this season, but he has had some great runs in the Nationwide series. Hopefully, what he found tonight will help him in the Cup race on Saturday.
Ragan is not running for a championship, but he sure looked like it tonight.
Today the news for Brad Keselowski seemed to be about an apparent contract at Penske racing in 2010 in the Cup Series. While speculation abounded, he went out and won the pole for the Nationwide race and rebounded from a race leading accident.
Keselowski is proving to be a man on a mission. After an incident with Justin Algaier, Keselowski restarted 29th after NASCAR forced them down onto pit road to repair damage.
He was up into the top 10 in less than 30 laps.
Keselowski is proving he is not a fluke and that he will be a contender for the Nationwide championship this year. He took advantage of Kyle Busch's misfortune, which was exactly what he needed to do.
While the starting position and where he finished tell how good of a car he had, it was what happened in between that will be the story of the race and shows the true strength of this team.
While everyone is wondering what he will do in 2010, he just went out there and notches his sixth consecutive top 10 finish.
Scratching your heads on this one, right?
Well, even though the end result wasn’t great, what Brendan Gaughan did in between is what landed him here.
Gaughan needed a strong run, and he needed to gain some points. He worked his way to the front, and under the strategy of only stopping once, which he did on lap 45.
The goal of getting track position worked, and he was able to keep it. While the leaders had to pit, Gaughan stayed on track and took over the lead.
Gaughan had tires with over 100 more laps on them than the cars in front of him, but he was able to hold position and run within the top five for most of the day until his worn tires cost him track postion. On a late caution, Gaughan ran out of fuel six laps short and finished 19th.
Even though he ran out of fuel, Gaughan needed this run not only for the points, but to help turn momentum for this team.
The not-so rookie was the highest finishing rookie of the race.
Justin Allgaier had a great car, and he was showing that early on. He was making the outside lane work and was passing cars from the drop of the green flag.
Allgaier is one of this sports brightest stars, and he has had good race cars and poor luck, and tonight was no different.
Allgaier would see his night end early when on a restart, contact between himself and Keselowski sent him from the lead to the wrecker. Keselowski took full responsibility for the incident, but that doesn’t take away the sting of what could have been.
Allgaier, who was sitting fifth in the points coming into Bristol, needed to get back out on the track. His crew worked on the car to get it fixed, and they got back on track. To make matters worse, he got together on the final lap and spun out hard, putting an exclamation point on his day.
Want to see maturity? Allgaier in his TV interview didn’t throw blame at Keselowski. He took the high road and reiterated that this team will be back next week at Montreal, while this week he finished 27th.
Trevor Bayne had a decent run going, as he was riding just outside the top 10. But Bayne became a victim of a long green flag run on a short track, and he was battling to stay on the lead lap.
With the leader Kevin Harvick coming, and coming hard, Bayne was battling Danny O’Quinn Jr. not only for position, but to be the first car a lap down in case of a caution.
Harvick got a bit impatient, tagged Bayne, and sent him into O’Quinn. Bayne then ended up four laps down.
Bayne has shown that he can run with the best in this sport, but he can’t fight some of this bad luck that he has been having.
His finish of 24th doesn’t really say just how good of a car he had. Even though he was fighting to stay on the lead lap, he was battling for a spot in the top 10.
Bayne, one of these days, will be able to finish what he started.
Kyle Busch started 15th and made his way all the way to lead, and that’s when his day ended. Once again, a leader was involved in an accident, but this one was a bit more costly.
Chase Austin had a cut tire and was unable to steer, and his car came right down in front of Busch, who hit the wall hard.
He went straight to the garage, and because of the red flag, the team was able to regroup and fix the car enough to come back onto the track and salvage the night. He finished 28th.
Busch takes a lot of slack when he blows off the media or is just plain disinterested. Tonight, he calmed down and came out and talked with the media.
He calmly described what happened without throwing Austin under the bus. He admitted that it was a rookie mistake, and while it was costly, he would salvage what he could.
I liked how he handled what was a tough night for not only himself, but for his team.
The Busch we saw tonight won’t get the same air time as the one we saw last weekend, but sometimes that is not a bad thing.
Lucky Dog: Kenny Wallace
While he didn’t get the lucky dog tonight and did finish the first car off the lead lap, Kenny Wallace put together another solid run tonight with a 14th place finish. He had a good car throughout the night, but they battled track position all night long.
In the last couple weeks, Wallace had strung together some very good runs and is proving that this small organization is able to keep pace with the large ones. In this economy, that is not only a good thing, but it’s refreshing to see.
Wallace is knocking on the top 10 in points, and next week he is heading up to Montreal in a car that fans donated money to sponsor, as his regular sponsor Border Patrol will not be on the car due to certain rules. Border Patrol will be back the next week.
Many fans and drivers have said that the new Bristol is nothing like the old Bristol, and that the repavment took away the beating and banging.
Well, it’s back.
From the start of the race, drivers were bouncing off of each other and using each other’s bumpers to steal positions.
You have to wonder if those Cup crew chiefs and drivers were paying attention to that outside lane and watching drivers not only make time, but make passes out there.
Another thing is Bristol is still Bristol. You could be up front and get caught up in someone else’s mess, so really, it’s about surviving.
Somehow, this championship just tightened up a bit. With Busch’s accident tonight, only 303 points separate the top three. While it is still a huge lead for Busch at this point, the trophy shouldn’t be engraved just yet.
Next week, we're going north of the border to Montreal for a Sunday afternoon drive.