By admin | March 16, 2008
Bristol: The way it oughta be
By Richard Allen
The Bristol Motor Speedway uses the slogan, “Racin’ the way it oughta be.” Last August, the track produced an event which was anything but that.
Well, fear not fans of the concrete bullring. The old track was back and perhaps even better than ever.
In the summer of 2007 Speedway Motorsports, the track’s owner, decided to resurface the high banked oval and add progressive banking to create more side by side racing. The race following the changes did not exactly produce what fans and track promoters had hoped for. Instead, drivers played a less than exciting game of follow the leader for 500 laps.
Sunday, however, the speedway so many fans call their favorite was back. Driver Ken Schrader remarked that, “They’ve given us a place where we can really race.”
There was plenty of side by side racing, there were lead changes, there was late race drama and even an invitation to fight. That’s the Bristol we have come to know and love.
Perhaps the best thing about the way the Food City 500 played out was that there did not have to be a caution flag every 20 laps for the racing to be intense and entertaining. There were long segments of green flag racing as the event was slowed by 10 cautions, as opposed to the 15-20 yellows races here have produced in the past.
The green flag runs did not necessarily equate to boredom. Positions changed throughout the runs as some cars handled better on new tires and some better on old tires. And, as always lapped traffic served to provide an accordion effect which kept the lead cars within striking distance of each other.
And for the grand finally, the track that has produced numerous wild finishes had another one in store for the 165,000 in attendance. A late race caution set up a pit or not scenario. Some of the lead cars hit pit road with less than 15 laps remaining in the race while others stayed out. That set up what would be an old style Bristol finish.
The cars on new tires came screaming through the field until the machines of Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart ran into one another and sent Stewart sliding into the wall. The track that might well have been the birthplace of the bump and run, or the Bristol bump, provided yet another of those trademark moves.
And what would a race at Bristol be without an invitation to settle the issue? Soon after climbing from his car Harvick announced over the public address system that if Stewart wanted to come over and fight about he was welcome to do so.
Now that’s Bristol. Racin’ the way it oughta be.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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