By admin | August 25, 2012
By Richard Allen
In a number of pieces I have written about the changes to the track at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2007, I have said that the racing has been good but it’s the sideshow that has been missing. Well, on Saturday night at the high banked half-mile, the track got its craziness back.
Thirteen caution flags waved over the course of the 500 lap event and several of them were accompanied by some outrageous behavior. Helmets were thrown, names were called, fingers were pointed and threats were made. That’s what fans have been missing from the concrete oval and that’s why there have been so many empty seats there in recent years.
The top groove was still king on Saturday as drivers ran right against the outside wall for much of the event despite a track grinding project that took place over the summer. There was actually very little passing throughout the night with the bottom line offering so little grip that drivers who went down there were unable to get around a higher running car.
That was much the same as has been going on here for five years. But what was different was that the un-rubbered lower line had so little grip the cars would slide up the track and get into the outside car. Consequently, tempers flared and antics ensued.
After a crash with Matt Kenseth while racing for the lead, Tony Stewart climbed from his car and flung his helmet at Kenseth’s passing #17. When the crowd roared its approval of Stewart’s show of emotion, he whipped his arm around to further stir the masses.
That kind of thing is what track officials were no doubt hoping for when they opted to change the racing surface. It’s what their advertising campaigns have promised in recent years but the track has failed to deliver.
After a late race incident with Regan Smith, first time Bristol Sprint Cup driver Danica Patrick climbed up the track’s banking to wave an accusing finger at her adversary. Again, the crowd roared. And again, that’s the kind of thing that has been missing.
There were other examples of flared tempers and hurt feelings. “Having at it” was more of the norm than the exception once more at the Bristol Motor Speedway.
The racing was just OK as cars struggled to pass and often took on the look of a freight train rolling around the top groove. But it was the return of the much missed antics that will have people talking and will help sell more tickets in the future at this track. While the spring race may continue to have its struggles, the August night race and the show that comes with it could well be able to proclaim that “Bristol’s Back” when the seats are filled next year.
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