Four hours of flying jets in a gymnasium. Four hours on spin cycle, someone loses a sock. Racing the way it is supposed to be. Whatever you want to call it, Bristol is about as good as it gets when it comes to Cup races to watch. Sub 16 second laps by 43 cars on a half mile track. 36 degree banking in the corners. Bump and run passes"¦oh, wait a minute, that’s not cool anymore? I bet Dale Earnhardt rolled over in his grave listening to the whinefest going on after the race Sunday.
Short track racing is all about muscling your way to the front. You root and gouge and rub your way to the front. If you aren’t fast enough to get by on the straight, but you are faster, you give the guy in front the bumper. You apply it progressively harder each lap until you are able to push him up out of the groove and get by. The key to the bump and run is the run. Once you bump your way past, you run on towards the front, away from the car you just pushed out of the way. If you don’t, you can expect them to come back and most likely not show the same patience that you showed them. That’s how it has been done at Bristol since they put the 36 degree banked corners on the track.
When the race was done, you went to the pits and found the guys you were moved by during the race, and you told them how displeased you were. You pointed fingers, you called them names, you insulted their driving abilities, you might even chuck a water bottle at them. On a good day the entire crews might get into the act. Somebody might even jump on someone’s hood to emphasize their point. When it was all said and done, you went home, called them on Tuesday and apologized, and went on to the next race.
Sunday sounded like someone brought pizza to a tea party. Matt Kenseth felt Kurt Busch’s push was completely uncalled for. Hey Matt, he wanted it and he did what he had to do to get it. Martin Truex, Jr. let himself get so worked up that he ended up putting himself into a situation that resulted in him being punted out of the race. Tony Stewart sent a message to Truex. Getting pissy during the race is fine, but don’t get out there and screw around with people who still have a chance to win when you are not running well. At least he had the sense to go to the hauler and not run his mouth. Kevin Harvick almost screwed up a good run by trying to send a message to Ryan Newman over a bump that was rather unavoidable. Meanwhile, Kenseth’s last lap bump left Jeff Gordon fired up at Kenseth, enough to actually shove him after the race. You know Big E had a smile on his face over that one. In my opinion, as long as Matt and Jeff work it out by Tuesday, it is all good, just emotions getting the better of them in the heat of the moment. If they let it carry over to Martinsville, THEN we have a problem.
The fact that Gordon was fined for his actions speaks volumes about where the sport is today. Rusty didn’t get fined when he threw the water bottle. Earnhardt didn’t get fined when he spun Terry Labonte, either time. Gordon didn’t get fined when he moved Rusty for the win, several times. Now, people are fined when they let their emotions show. NASCAR knows that the show on pit road was a huge boon to the sport. The shove was shown on every newscast and sports show Sunday night and Monday. It was refreshing to see Gordon let his emotions get the better of him for once. He should have taken his helmet off to make it more effective, but it was a good first step.
NASCAR needs to remember that it was a fist fight at Daytona that vaulted the sport into the mainstream of American sports. I don’t remember if Cale Yarborough, Donnie Allison, or Bobby Allison were fined for their altercation in 1979. My guess is they weren’t. It is sad to see what the sport has evolved into. Political correctness has really taken quite a bit of the raw emotion out of the sport. Here’s hoping Jimmy Spencer can teach a few of the newer drivers how it was done in the old days this weekend. We would all love to see Jimmy get fired up. You can bet he’ll take his helmet off before he shows his displeasure.
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