By Carlos Mendez, Fort Worth Star-Telegram –
Bristol, the site of this week’s NASCAR Sprint Cup stop, changed its track to promote more one-groove racing.
In other words, more bumping and banging.
In one word, crashes.
The track believes that’s what the fans want at the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile.” Not the high and low grooves that make side-by-side racing easier.
The track used to think the fans were tiring of a single line of cars, racing around the track, pushing each other out of the way. It increased the grip of the track so the cars could go up to pass.
But then the fans stopped coming.
Kyle Busch shook his head. From his perspective — the driver’s — the passing room was a good thing. He knew what to do on the track — he’s won there five times.
But if it’s about entertainment, he’s fine with giving the fans entertainment.
“It’s too bad to see them change a perfectly good racetrack that promotes good side-by-side racing for a lot of the event,” he said. “Last fall, Joey Logano and I raced each other side-by-side for the last 15 laps before we were banging doors in three and four coming to the checkered. In 2008, Carl Edwards and I were running into each other and everything else there. There’s been a lot of good racing at Bristol. It’s not the ‘move-the-guy-out-of-the-way, spin-somebody-out’ atmosphere anymore, and if fans want to see wrecks, then I guess we have to wreck more.
“It’s actually good for us drivers to not have to have those things and not have that kind of drama that we have to deal with. But if the fans need that in order to buy tickets, then I guess we’ve got to do what we need to do.”
No matter what they do to Bristol, it’s still where reputations are made. Trade paint there, you can trade paint anywhere.
“Bristol, to me, is a man’s racetrack, and I respect that place so much,” said Brad Keselowski, who this week will go for his third win in a row there. “I think it takes a level of respect for it. From day one, the first day I walked in there, I respected it. But I also wanted to win there. I wanted to prove to myself and others that I could be the man to win at a man’s racetrack.
“So it’s always been a challenge to me, and it’s one that, for some reason, has taken a piece of me somewhere deep inside and made it rise to the next level. I just love it for that reason. There are few things in life that can do that to anyone, and Bristol is that place for me.”
Who’s hot: Marcos Ambrose. He has posted back-to-back Top 5s, the first of his Sprint Cup career, following his win at Watkins Glen two weeks ago and his fifth-place finish last week at Michigan.
Who’s not: Ryan Hunter-Reay. Since winning three races in a row (and leading 135 laps) in the IndyCar Series, the American driver has finished seventh and 24th in two races (and led no laps). He has lost his points lead, now sitting five points behind Will Power.
For three: Brad Keselowski is going for his third consecutive Sprint Cup victory at Bristol. Only four other drivers have done that — Fred Lorenzen, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip and Kurt Busch.
Best finish: Travis Kvapil’s 15th-place finish last week at Michigan marked the best ever for BK Racing.
Reinstated: Driver Aaron Fike was reinstated by NASCAR this week after completing the series’ substance abuse recovery program. He had been suspended since July 11, 2007.