So after the Texas Round Up (which really sounds like it should be a rodeo and/or tacky steakhouse) got lost to the whims of the internet, NASCAR heads back to the short track racing.
It’s time for Bristol, touted as a modern colosseum that hands out gladiator swords as trophies.
It wasn’t that long ago at Martinsville that I rambled on about the awesomeness of short track racing, so I shan’t get repetitive with you. I really wish NASCAR would swap the Texas and Martinsville weekends so we could follow the West Coast Swing with the Short Track Rumble, a three in a row of short tracks. I’ll happily take three of four though.
So how did this round of the “PR unapproved hashtag I just made up in the last paragraph” Short Track Rumble pan out?
Carl Edwards won from the pole, leading over half the laps of the race and doing his patented backflip of victory. Between Edwards and Kenseth, the two cars led over three quarters of the race, Kenseth ultimately wrecking in the front half of the race to finish 40 laps off the pace, the last car which did not DNF. But 16 lead changes is nothing to sneeze at. 15 caution flags. These cars were out there beating and banging in the best short track tradition. It’s my favorite kind of racing and Bristol put on a show.
Too bad not many were there to see it.
Every picture of the stands looked really sad. The estimated crowed at Thunder Valley was only 90k. That leaves 70k seats empty. This gives me a sad face. I am one of many that thinks NASCAR overbuilt in the late 90s and early 2000s. A lot of grandstands across NASCAR have been getting the ax. I’ve seen it with my own eyes at New Hampshire. Bristol used to be a guaranteed sell out but those days look long gone. I get that people’s sports viewing habits have changed a lot in the last fifteen years. People tend to go for the high def big screens with their own kitchen and bathroom a short jaunt away, or with the portable on the go pocket screen. It is what it is. I can’t fix that part, especially since I got one of those high def big screens, but Bristol is one of the most unique and exciting races on the schedule. It’s on my bucket list. Bristol should be the last place that needs to “enhance the race day experience.”
This year’s spring Bristol race was a great one. So we’ll just go with that and pretend there were butts in those seats.
Woman hit by Kyle Busch’s car
This is one of the more WTF moments I’ve seen in NASCAR in a long time. Or racing period.
Kyle Busch was coming into the infield after his second crash. The right front was shot. The wheel was bent, so steering was… less than optimal. So he’s pulling into the garage and BAM! Clips a woman in the back of the leg with the car.
It looks like Busch was driving off under a rope divider. You can see a guy holding it up in the clip. And one guy had to quite literally jump out of the way. And it’s Bristol, so it’s going to be louder than other tracks. But still. Looks like she was doing something on her phone.
She rolled her ankle and went down. Frankly, I think she’s lucky the splitter didn’t hamstring her.
Even if Busch was driving in an area that one wouldn’t expect traffic, PAY ATTENTION!
I’ve had hot passes at New Hampshire before. It’s not nearly as crowded as Bristol but you PAY ATTENTION to where you are.
Every now and then we’re reminded that NASCAR can be dangerous. We’re lucky that woman wasn’t severely hurt.
This is a great week for Shout Outs. Normally, restrictor place races are where you expect to see surprise finishes, they are unpredictable and the great leveler at the same time. But Bristol paid off for some people who needed great runs (or never had one before).
Holy crap Matt DiBenedetto!
BK Racing has been running full time for five years, taking over from the remnants of Red Bull Racing. This is a team where a top 20 finish is a great day. They finished in sixth place. Not only is that the best finish for the second year driver, it is the best finish for BK Racing period. And this is a small team that would regularly show up to the track with four cars in the pre-charter days (and still did at Daytona). Running some of the old MWR equipment that the team picked up at auction, I had this team and DiBenedetto pegged as a guy who could make some improvements this year. I expected it to come on a restrictor plate track or one of the cookie-cutters where even small teams can get some good data. Their performance this week even got the #83 team to ink a sponsor for next week at Richmond.
There’s also a twitter hashtag on now #VoteForMattD to get him in the All Star Race. Remember Josh Wise and the DogeCar? Well, wouldn’t Danica just be pissed if those internet nerds out voted her for second time.
Here’s a guy who really needed a solid finish. Since winning the 2011 Daytona 500 as a part timer for the Wood Brothers, the fifth place finish at Bristol was his best race. Bayne is one of the people I think is on the hot seat for not having a ride next year. Roush’s struggles have been well documented across the board. Stenhouse has finally been showing improvement and I see Roush as the type of team that will have a veteran paired up with younger drivers so Biffle is safe(ish). With Bubba Wallace waiting in the wings, I figured Bayne was on the hot seat. This race was huge for that #6 team, only their third top ten since Bayne went full time and Roush resurrected the number.
Also, holy crap look at how roughed up Bayne’s car is in the picture I used here. Yay short tracks!
Bowyer didn’t forget how to drive. Looking at his numbers this year, it’s easy to think he might have. But we have to remember, even though his number and sponsors are the same, he’s running for HScott now and not MWR. Even though he’s on a winning drought for almost three and a half years, he wasn’t bad last year with twelve top 10s. Since heading to HScott for his temporary assignment before taking over Tony Stewart’s #14, California was the only top 20 he posted in the first seven races. Ricky Craven, over at ESPN, wrote a couple days ago how a driver can out think himself in a slump and how Bowyer can get his head back in the game. The best cure all in NASCAR is a good finish. One of NASCAR’s biggest characters should get a little bit of his swagger back.
The finishing position of the #38 Front Row Motorsports Ford says 22nd, which is an okay day for that team. That doesn’t tell the whole story though. Cassill was mixing it up at the front of the pack at Bristol. He led laps around the mid point of the race and spent much of the second half of the race in the top ten. Unfortunately, a late race tangle with Ty Dillon, running the #95 this week, hosed that up for Cassill. Landon is one of the drivers who has been going about his career in an old school way, starting with the small teams and working his way up through the ranks. He got a top five for the Hillman-Circle Sport Tangle a while ago at Talladega. Cassill has long been one of the drivers I want to see get a chance in top shelf equipment, so even though his finish didn’t reflect it, I love seeing him mixing it up and leading laps.
Pit Stall 13 Update
There is now a tie at the top of the Pit Stall 13 Leaderboard. Matching Kyle Larson’s Martinsville performance, Kurt Busch took home a third place with the magic of pit stall 13 behind him.
Kurt’s driving style has always fit the short track races on the NASCAR circuit. He qualified pretty poorly in 26th place, but broke into the top ten by lap 200 and never looked back, staying the top ten for the rest of the day. Bonus points for having excellent pit stops all day too. The official NASCAR stats put him at third best average pit time of the day behind Edwards and McMurray.
- 11th – #21 Ryan Blaney – Cracked the top 15 quick and stayed there all day, much in the top 10. If it wasn’t for Chase Elliot coming home 4th, we’d be hearing a lot more Blaney Buzz
- 28th – #98 Cole Whitt – Survived the attrition only four laps off the pace
- 33rd – #30 Josh Wise – Survived the attrition but not as well as Whitt
- 40th – #55 Reed Sorensen – The caboose of the field conked out at lap 169 and called it suspension
On to Richmond!
One more week of the “I just made it up” hashtag #ShortTrackRumble over at Richmond before hitting the exact opposite with Talladega the first week of May. There is going to be a lot of talk about all the important data next week what since Richmond is the final pre-Chase race in the fall. I’m just glad to watch short track NASCAR as often as I can.
Of note for next week, Richmond will be only the second race of the year with more than 40 cars on the entry list. For the first time since Daytona, someone is going to have to go home and that’s kinda big in a season where we’ve only been hitting 39 cars for a lot of the races already. BK Racing, fresh off DiBenedetto’s team and career best finish, is rolling in with a third car for Ryan Ellis (who ran one Cup level race last year with Circle Sport). BK Racing got two Charterless cars into the Daytona 500 and they’ve been running decent midpack races so I think that probably leaves Premium with either Whitt or Sorensen as the odd man out.
As for predictions? After this past week at Bristol, who knows anymore. I’d say “the usual short track faces” but this past week was full of faces up front which aren’t usual. My hope is that guys like Cassill and Menard who ran well this past week can get the finishes to go with the up front face time. And of course I’d love to see DiBenedetto pull off another run like this past week. I can see Roush riding some momentum too, although, Stenhouse is better at short tracks than Bayne. The #17 is quietly solid at short tracks so I would not be surprised at a good finish.