Old Bristol, Rage Resurface In Nationwide Race
By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
BRISTOL, Tenn. – Shades of the old Bristol Motor Speedway that fans loved and most drivers despised reappeared Friday night in the Food City 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race.
The 250-lap event that was delayed nearly an hour by rain and eventually won by Joey Logano produced nine yellow flags for 59 laps, the most of any Nationwide event this season.
“It’s definitely hard to pass out there, so I predict that will be kind of the same way tomorrow [Saturday] night,” said Kyle Busch, who finished third. “I think we all see it on the restarts that everybody is fighting for the top, just trying to boot everybody out of the way to get up there and get in a single file line.
“It’s frustrating. It’s certainly not what we all want to see around here. I felt like before there was a bottom and there was a way top and you could even use the middle and you could work a lot around through there. Right now they brought the top closer to the bottom, so it actually hurts the bottom worse because you don’t have room to move up off the corners and get into the corners. You’re actually at the mercy of the guy on your outside. Glad they conferred with all the drivers.”
Speedway Motorsports Inc. Chairman Bruton Smith decided to grind down the half-mile track’s top lane after the embarrassing attendance at the March NASCAR Sprint Cup race. His goal was to return the track to the facility the fans loved, where the bump-and-run tactic became famous, and competitors didn’t restrain their tempers. After Friday night’s race it appeared Smith achieved his objective. Busch, Brad Keselowski, Elliott Sadler, Brian Scott, Trevor Bayne and Kevin Harvick were among those angry after the checkered flag.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who finished second, climbed from his car and immediately walked to Sadler to apologize for bumping him in the final two laps, a move that relegated Sadler to a fifth-place finish. Sadler, however, wasn’t in a receptive mood. The Virginia native, who possesses a 19-point lead over Stenhouse in the championship battle, said the incident meant he would definitely race Stenhouse differently in the season’s final 10 races.
Bayne, who was involved in an incident with Austin Dillon with seven laps remaining, confronted Dillon as the Nationwide rookie prepared to do a TV interview. The two exchanged heated words for a minute or two before Richard Childress, Dillon’s grandfather, broke up the confrontation.
“I thought we were going to at least get a top-five, which we were in position for, and then the (No.) 3 car [Dillon] just drove over his head and took us out,” said a disgusted Bayne, who finished 16th.
Dillon said it was obvious someone was going to get wrecked at the end because it was a “freight train at the top.”
“I think Bristol got what they wanted tonight,” remarked Dillon, who finished fourth.
Keselowski’s anger stemmed from an incident involving himself and Brad Teague in the second turn on lap 26. After the race, Keselowski, who finished 32nd, Tweeted: “I made a mistake, should have known who we were racing.”
Scott spun on lap 62 after getting clipped in the left rear by Busch. Like Keselowski, Scott took to Twitter after the event: “Why can’t shit like tonight happen when you aren’t handling very well? It always happens when you fast.” Scott finished 34th.
Harvick was the race’s top lap leader, setting the pace for 98 laps, before faltering at the end and having to settle for 15th. The Richard Childress Racing driver Tweeted: “Starting to get to the point when I want to beat my head against the wall. Had 4 gallons of gas in it and didn’t pick it up.”
It appeared Logano was one of the few happy drivers after the event. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver led three times for 81 laps in claiming his 15th Nationwide career victory, sixth this season and first at Bristol. Still, it was a challenging evening.
“It’s super, super, super hard to pass,” Logano said. “I had a good enough car that I could run the top and the bottom pretty well. I was pretty good in (turns) one and two, but I couldn’t do much in (turns) three and four and they would beat me through that corner if I was on the bottom. So I just tried to position myself to set up lapped cars. I was looking far enough ahead to see where they were running and then I would adjust my line to that and, hopefully, put the guy in front of me in a bad spot that he had to let me go to get through the situation. That was the only way I passed any cars tonight.”
Michael Annett, who finished 18th, was another driver who didn’t have any quarrel with the track.
“I actually thought I had more grip up high than I had in the past, but I also could have just had a better race car,” Annett said. “It was pretty much the same and it was fun. I like this kind of racing. I think the fans got a little bit more of what they were looking for with guys moving each other out of the way and more cautions for people getting spun, so maybe it’s a happy medium right now.”
– Deb Williams can be reached at email@example.comNo Comment