The Frontstretch: Thinkin' Out Loud: Bristol Night Race Recap by Mike Neff -- Monday August 26, 2013

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Thinkin' Out Loud: Bristol Night Race Recap

Mike Neff · Monday August 26, 2013


Key Moment – With eight laps to go, Kasey Kahne had a run coming out of Turn 4 and briefly nosed ahead of Matt Kenseth before Kenseth muscled his way back past to secure the top spot for the remainder of the race.

In a Nutshell – Bristol is the second shortest track on the schedule and everything happens faster at Bristol that any other track. However, the one thing that doesn’t happen fast is passing. In a microcosm of the entire sport as it sits right now, races are no longer won by out running someone, they’re won by out strategizing them. Nine leaders and 16 lead changes, including four actually on the track, didn’t mean near as much as Matt Kenseth making a pit stop on lap 336, taking two tires and making his fuel last until he was done with his burnout after scoring the win.

Dramatic Moment – Carl Edwards led the race five times for 119 laps but as the field circulated under caution for the ninth time of the night his car began to misfire. When the green flag flew, Edwards car did not come up to full song and by lap 387 he was behind the wall with an expired engine. Had Edwards engine not failed, the end of the race might have been very different.

What They’ll be Talking About Around the Water Cooler

Most people have been prepared to hand the championship to Jimmie Johnson after his early season and huge point lead. While the No. 48 might have been experimenting a little over the last month, they are now faced with a point deficit to Matt Kenseth if they are not able to win one of the next two races. Johnson has been the class of the series but they’ve lost quite a bit of momentum over the last three races and if Kenseth can ride the wave from this win to another over the next two races, they may have the upper hand on the No. 48.

Try as the folks on TV did, the bottom line at the end of the race on Saturday night was track position means more than anything. With tires that last FOREVER in racing terms, getting to the front with the earliest possible window to make it to the end of the race is paramount every week. Kenseth had enough fuel to win and do a burnout. Had the race gone Green-White-Checkered, Kahne would have been the winner because Kenseth would have run out of fuel before the green flag waved again. If the people that run the sport don’t pull their proverbial heads from their accumulated rectums soon and start coming up with tires that give up grip after being driven for thirty or forty laps, the racing is going to continue to suck more than a black hole.

Racing at Bristol changed forever in 2007 when the track was repaved. It is no longer the single groove track at the bottom, but the racing is far better for those fans that don’t want to see people wrecked in order for a pass to be made. The caution flag flew 11 times for 74 laps Saturday night and included an eight car pile up for those folks who wanted to see wrinkled sheet metal. Passing is difficult for sure but is possible, and would be better if tires meant more.

Someone abducted the real Kevin Harvick and put a rational human being in his place. The old Happy ran over the top of cars to get his hands around the neck of someone he thought had done him wrong. Saturday night he put his head in the window and accepted the explanation of someone who just totaled his car without so much as banging his fist on the guy’s car. It can’t be much longer before we have dogs and cats living together.

The National Anthem by the MRO kids is still the best rendition all year. If you don’t smile during that pre-race activity at Bristol you are one cold-hearted bastard.

Kyle Busch was the winning Truck on Wednesday night and the dominant car on Friday night, but messed up in qualifying which resulted in him having to start at the back of the pack. Busch managed a eleventh place finish but had to use up his car quite a bit to get through the field for that finish. Had he started near the front it could have been a very different outcome on Saturday night

Attendance at Bristol was still far from a sellout. While the crowd looked smaller than last year to the trained eye of your writer, most of the drivers felt it was the best that it has been in years. With 11 cautions, 95% of the cars with torn up sheet metal and a pit lane altercation, this race will hopefully have gone a way toward increasing attendance.

Landon Cassill’s car had a paint scheme that is known as fire camo. Not since Dale Earnhardt drove the Peter Maxx paint scheme in the Winston has a car looked like someone puked all over it.

The Hindenburg Award for Foul Fortune

After years of start and parking, Joe Nemechek has been running at the end of most races this season. He’s put in a valiant effort with an underdog team, making it through the season on patchwork sponsorship. Unfortunately for Nemechek Saturday night, he took the green flag and made it through Turn 1 before the car began to smoke. He was credited with one completed lap and a DNF for a blown engine.

Carl Edwards was one of the best cars at Bristol for the first 380 laps. Unfortunately for him, the race was 500 laps long. On a lap 381 restart, Edwards car did not come up to song and by lap 387 he was behind the wall with a blown engine. Amazingly, it was the first DNF for Roush Fenway Racing all season. With three drivers that is 71 completed races and one incomplete. It’s a pretty impressive statistic if you’re not Carl Edwards or one of his fans.

Kevin Harvick has had one finish in the last five races that was better than 13th. As the Chase rapidly approaches on the horizon, it is all about gaining momentum to head into the final 10 races with the cars and teams hitting on all cylinders. Harvick was strong early in the year, notching two wins and racking up five top 5s and 10 top 10s through the first 18 races. Over the last six races he’s only managed one top 5 and two top 10s. If Harvick starts off the Chase with a similar showing, things could rapidly deteriorate knowing he won’t be back at Richard Childress Racing in 2014.

The “Seven Come for Eleven” Award for Fine Fortune

Juan Pablo Montoya was having a strong run at Bristol before he received a speeding penalty on lap 337 leaving the pits. He restarted at the end of the longest line on lap 342. He persevered and scored his second top 5 finish in three races. Since Montoya found out he was not going to be coming back to Ganassi in 2014 he’s posted a fifth, eleventh and third place finish. While most people believe Montoya’s NASCAR career is over, he is certainly driving like he’s auditioning, not riding out the string.

Brian Vickers had an impressive run at Bristol last August that many people think secured a ride for him in 2013. Now that he’s ready for full-time competition in the No.55 next season, he looked to have an even better run at Bristol this year. Starting on the outside of the second row Vickers didn’t stay up front for long. He was back to eleventh on lap 50 and 24th at the halfway point of the race. From there he slowly but steadily marched forward and took advantage of the misfortune of the drivers who were running in front of him to come home with a fourth place finish.

Joey Logano received damage early in the event and ended up spending more time on pit road than anyone who finished on the lead lap outside of Jeff Burton, David Ragan and Kyle Busch. Logano, like Vickers, was in the 24th position, on lap 200, before carving through the field to secure a fifth place finish when the checkered flag flew in Bristol.

Paul Menard started the race in 21st before using pit strategy to get to the front of the field. Menard led the race twice for 64 laps, dropped back as far as 14th before ending the race in the final spot of the top 5.

Worth Noting

  • Matt Kenseth has now notched 29 victories in his Sprint Cup career. He is still 22nd on the all-time wins list, just three victories behind Dale Jarrett. With Kenseth’s championship, Daytona 500 victories and win total, he should be a shoe-in hall of famer since that is what it took to earn Jarrett an induction.
  • Kenseth’s win is his fifth this season, the most in the Cup series.
  • This is Kenseth’s third career victory at Bristol in 18 career starts at the facility.
  • Kasey Kahne’s runner-up finish was his third of his career at Bristol. He has five career top 5s at the high banked half-mile in 20 starts.
  • Kahne has six top two finishes this season. In three of his four top 2 finishes he has come home second to Matt Kenseth.
  • Juan Pablo Montoya’s third-place finish was his second top three finish of the season. He’s finished in the top 5 four times.
  • This was the first top-5 result for Montoya at Bristol in 14 starts. It was also Montoya’s 15th career podium in his seven-year career.
  • Carl Edwards’ blown engine was the first DNF for a Roush car in 2013.
  • Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. finished 18th and won the Rookie of the Race again.
  • Top 10 finishes by Manufacturer –

Toyota – 2
Chevrolet – 5
Ford – 3

What’s the Points?

Jimmie Johnson was 75 points ahead of Clint Bowyer when the checkered flag flew at Indianapolis. After finishes of 13th, 8th, 40th and 36th, he now holds a mere 18 point lead over Bowyer with two races left until the Chase. Since the points mean absolutely nothing when the race at Richmond is finished, the No. 48 team doesn’t really care about where they are at this point. What they do care about is momentum, so look for Johnson and his team to put on a blitz to try and win at least one if not both of the two races remaining before the Chase. Carl Edwards, who could have made a big move in the momentum game with a win at Bristol instead finds himself still in third place, 53 points behind Johnson. Kevin Harvick is sitting eight points behind Edwards in fourth while is 82 points out of the lead in the last spot of the top 5 in points.

Matt Kenseth is three points behind Harvick in the meaningless point category but will be the point leader once the Chase starts barring an unimaginable collapse that would cost his a 55 point loss over the final two races. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is 107 points behind Johnson and, more importantly 33 points ahead of Brad Keselowski in 11th. Kasey Kahne’s runner-up finish allowed him to jump three positions to eighth in points. Provided he can hang onto a spot in the top 10, which he currently holds by 20 points over Keselowski, Kahne will end up tied for fourth in points when the Chase begins. Greg Biffle sits ninth in points after gaining one spot Saturday night while Joey Logano rounds out the top 10 thanks to gaining three positions in the standings Saturday.

Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch both dropped three positions in the points Saturday night. Neither of them has a victory to fall back on for the battle for the Chase so they pressure is squarely on their shoulders to perform over the next two weeks. For now, the two Wild Card winners would be Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Newman. They are the top two point holders outside the top 10 who have scored victories this season.

Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans, with one being a stinker and a six-pack an instant classic) – For those fans who want to see people wrecked in order for a pass to be completed, the race at Bristol Saturday night would be worth a can of 15-year-old Schlitz. On the other hand, those fans who enjoy side-by-side, three-wide, mad scramble racing from the drop of the green to the waving of the checkered flag, Saturday night was the kind of race that you want to see week in and week out. Passing isn’t easy, but it can be done. 500 laps around the high banks with sparks flying and tempers flaring is exactly what fans of short track racing love to see. This one gets three frosty cans of Budweiser. It would be more but tire wear should dictate the end of a Bristol race more than fuel mileage.

Next Up – It isn’t Darlington but it is NASCAR on Labor Day in the South. The series heads to Atlanta for a rare Sunday night race. This race and the Coca-Cola 600 are the only races scheduled for Sunday nights during the Cup season. Coverage begins at 7:30 on ESPN and PRN.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


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08/26/2013 08:51 AM

Bristol has turned into another fuel mileage race? Thank you Nascar.

When I turned over from the Bronco’s game and saw the 48 in the garage, I perked up. That was a sight to see.

Then later, finding out Kenseth had won the race made it super sweet. Way to go Kenseth. Hope you can survive the nascar inspectors…..

Don’t for a minute count “FIVE TIME!” out. He’ll be on a cookie cutter soon so watch out for that secret extra HP to show up. LOL.

Still would have loved to have seen Kyle make ANOTHER sweep though.

08/26/2013 08:51 AM

i just don’t know…..maybe na$car told hendrick to let the competition catch up to johnson going into the chase to make it more interesting (if that is humanly possible). just got a weird feeling about the past few weeks with johnson finishing where he has. i don’t put anything past na$car.

see where princess sparkle pony had a top 25 finish.

if dale sr had been in that race, running 2nd to kenseth, he would have use the fender to win. kane seems to lack the anatomy to run and punt someone for the win.

bristol SHOULD NOT be a fuel mileage race.

those coming to atlanta…..remember your rain gear. we’ve gone 2 days without rain, but it’s already in the forecast.

Bill B
08/26/2013 08:59 AM

A very enjoyable and interesting race. Still, they really need to make tire wear more of a variable. It’s not as big of a deal at a short track but it could be so much better.

Carl D.
08/26/2013 10:28 AM

“Not since Dale Earnhardt drove the Peter Maxx paint scheme in the Winston has a car looked like someone puked all over it.”
Au Contraire, mon frere. Take a look at Travis Pastana’s Nationwide car. It has regurgitated purple jesus all over it.

08/26/2013 10:40 AM

Mike, I totally agree they have got to do something about the tires lasting forever.

I think it would solve the scarcity of on-track passing. We’ll see what the new compound (I guess it’s really just a different combination) brings Sunday.

Felt bad for Ku. Busch, leading the race, then having the hub come loose. Rooting for him to make the chase.

08/26/2013 11:18 AM

Second paragraph: “races are no longer won by our running someone” should we our run them or ‘out’ run them.

Also, you didn’t give us your beer can rating and took out the voting option.

I completely agree on the Landon Cassill car, I had to go to Jayski to see what that God aweful eyesore was.

Nazicar will hand MK and Toy-Yoda the championship in fear of them pulling out of the sport.

08/26/2013 11:19 AM

i was trying to figure out what that 40 car was trying to show…sponsor didn’t get a very good return on investment. i thought it was some kind of camouflage. there seems to be so many different patterns.

08/26/2013 12:11 PM

Solidly written article as usual Mike but I think you needed to highlight more what I feel most fans will be discussing at the water cooler today; should Kahne have wrecked Kenseth to win? After all Kenseth took out the 5 at the Glen. My feeling is on the last lap at a short track good manners go out the window. As noted in comments above, Earnhardt would have done it and look at the memorable finishes he caused at Bristol that fans are still debating. What would have been interesting is if Gordon was still running second. Desperately in need of the win to have a chance at the championship would he have moved his own teammate? I recall him surgically moving Rusty out of the way one time at this track. (And if I recall Wallace took askance at the move and flat out parked Gordon at Richmond in response. That’s the sort of rivalry this sport needs right now even if a Kahne-Kenseth battle would be like watching two Care Bears wrestle.

So why didn’t Kahne move the 20? Blame it on the Chase. Yeah, a win would have helped cement Kasey’s place, but if the move went wrong and he wrecked a bad finish would have cost him more than the win would have helped. Simply put, the Chase is ruining NASCAR racing.

Are we seeing the first bitter fruits of ESPN/ABC’s lame duck status for 2015. In many key markets including here in Philly, the fourth largest city, ABC affiliates showed PRESEAON football games rather than the race. In some markets the race was on ESPN. In others they joined the race in progress after the games. As of five minutes before the race here in Philly the Comcast guide was showing the race as being broadcast only on something called the Living Well Network. (Or the Livid As Hell Network)and the listing showed HIGH SCHOOL football on ESPN. (sorry fans of high school sports, ESPN did in fact show the race.) Certainly ABC has no interest in promoting the sport and raising the ratings only to have to hand off the broadcast rights to a bitter rival after next year.

Exactly how badly is Tony Stewart hurt. To the best of my knowledge he hasn’t been seen in public or granted a live interview since the sprint car wreck. We know he broke two bones in his lower right leg, but I’m hearing some worrisome things about the amount of damage to flesh and muscle in the area. So does SHR really want KuBu as a fourth driver or as a stand in for Stewart for early next year?

Enjoy the rest of your summer campers, cause come next Tuesday, Summer time’s done come and gone, my, oh,my.


08/26/2013 12:27 PM

i’d speculate that blood thinners stewart may be on as a result of the injury will keep him sidelined til next year. if bone was exposed, that is a serious break with lots of muscle/tissue and infection issues.

i would not want to be the pt team working with him. no amount of money could pay the pour soul to deal with stewart’s temperment.

08/26/2013 12:37 PM

Tire wear has never been much of a factor at Bristol, and at the end of the race, Kahne’s fresh tires made him much faster than Kenseth; it was just too hard to pass on the bottom. The announcers mentioned a gear ratio change that meant cars had less drive off the corner, and that may have made it harder to pass on the inside.

If Fontana was the best finish of the year, then Saturday was the best race of the season from start to finish, even if it was hard to pass on the bottom. It had a bit of everything: contact all through the pack, close racing, a few tempers flaring, and a nail-biting finish. I’m looking forward to Atlanta and Richmond, which should both produce good racing. Heck, I think Chicago might actually be pretty good as well if they bring a tire that falls off on that aged surface.

Also, I think Mike forgot to actually give the race a proper rating. My personal opinion is five cans.

Carl D.
08/26/2013 12:42 PM


Stewart’s pt team… I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.

08/26/2013 01:03 PM

Matt “NASCAR Kid” McLaughlin makes an appearance. It’s great to hear from you Matt, I hope all is well!

08/26/2013 01:14 PM

The “old” Kevin Harvick is the same today as he was back then, all bark and no bite. I agree with everybody saying the reason racing stinks is because of “The Chase”, if you let em’ race till Homestead racing would go back to racing. Point racing for the gimmicky Chase is ruining this sport. And what a nasty bunch working at SHR! I doubt if the money counters at Fort Knox in Daytona read these comments from various sites, everybody knows “The Chase” has been and will continue to be a problem, yet King Brian digs in his heels because it was his idea dammit..or so it seems.

08/26/2013 01:24 PM

I like this new Bristol, though it appears they got there on accident. It was like watching a dirt race on concrete. You could make passes on the bottom but it took the old fashioned slide job to get it done. I was kind of hoping though Kasey would use the “chrome horn” a little more. I agree, tires have to mean something again. It’s probably one of the best ways to negate the “areopush” on big tracks.

08/26/2013 01:34 PM

I agree with Matt completely: How many of you really think that the outcome would have been the same if there was no “CHASE” to gain entry to? It (the chase) absolutely degrades every race of the year, before AND during.

08/26/2013 02:41 PM

Yes, the racing at Bristol changed as soon as Bright Brian dreamed up ‘the CHASE’! Things got REAL polite when that happened.

08/26/2013 03:44 PM

Decent article, Mike, but Bristol should NOT be a fuel mileage race – ever. Track position is key everywhere and it, along with the rock hard tires, have screwed up the FUN of watching drivers have to work their cars AND be able to pass. Yuck! It wasn’t a bad race by any means but also not all that great.

As Matt said, Philly stations showed pre-season football rather than the race — wow, how far down the food chain NASCAR and BRISTOL have fallen!

I agree, you missed the topic that most people were talking about – should KK have wrecked him for the win?

Actually I think he should have but obviously the “chase” and maybe even KK’s personality didn’t allow that to happen. I agree that certainly Earnhardt would have – we saw that quite a lot as I recall and I remember clearly the Gordon-Wallace rivalry. One of my favorite wins for Jeff was when he moved Rusty over and took the win to break his winless drought. Note I say he moved him, he didn’t wreck him. That’s a skillset most of the newer drivers don’t possess – they can wreck one another, but bumping & running seldom happens. of course, maybe these stupid Kit cars are also to blame. Rusty has NEVER gotten over losing that race to Gordon and it shows in every ESPN broadcast.

I have no idea if Johnson & Chad are just doing their usual laying back in the weeds until the chase actually begins or not – always hard to say with them.

08/26/2013 03:57 PM

There should be more “Racing Luck” involved in NASCAR racing and less “Racing Science”.
Which is more “Spectator Friendly”?
Who cares what Chad Knauss does. That doesn’t make good TV. Shorter races, more parity, more bump and grind.

Kevin in SoCal
08/26/2013 04:00 PM

Waaa waaa waaaa! I guess those of you crying about the Chase would rather be watching all the excitement of Jimmie Johnson running away with the championship by over 50 points.
Kasey Kahne is not the type to “bump and run.” He said so himself after the race. It has nothing to do with the Chase.

08/26/2013 04:11 PM

The young driver who “moved” a driver very well and still gotta alot of flack about it was Joey Logano at Pocono to Mark Martin. Marky Mark stated “he would not have done it that way” which the low information casual Nascar fan took it as Joey did something horribly wrong. It still not clear whether he actually made contact or the “air” took over. The point being it was executed perfectly and still complaints. I suspect Kasey Kahne and Keso if they moved Matt and Kyle would have the same people complain. Its racing, if you don’t try and get to the front then you are just following the leader. To even have this discussion is dumb. I blame “The Chase”.

08/26/2013 05:32 PM

If Knaus is hiding in the grass until the “Chase” I wish the 48 would have wrapped up a spot long ago. This race was entertaining knowing Johnson and his Superman pit crew weren’t in the mix all night.

Mike Neff
08/26/2013 05:37 PM

Thanks for the corrections SS. Changed the typo and added my three cans of frosty Budweiser.

08/26/2013 05:43 PM

Forgot to mention two things. The inside line on the restart was at such a disadvantage that one driver and team actually stopped at the end of pit road to let another car pass them so they’d be on the outside lane. I forget which driver it was but the move backfired when JPM got nailed for speeding and sent to the rear of the field.

Also a very happy anniversary to my long time bud Jay, who’s Jayski Silly Season Page debuted 17 years ago today. (Monday) Most of you who have read my stuff a long time have told me you first found my articles on Jay’s “Links” page back in the day when the Internet was still something of a novelty. Thanks to Jay for being the locomotive that pulled along the NASCAR Internet train all these years.

08/26/2013 05:46 PM



08/26/2013 06:24 PM

to Kevin…#48 only 18pts ahead of #15 as of now. The big problem still with that is the stupid point system, where it takes 19 positions to take the lead without any bonus points. Where as before if in the top ten in the race, could do it in about 4-5 finishing positions.

08/27/2013 09:29 AM

Matt, that was Denny Hamlin.

08/27/2013 09:30 AM

Kevin, I would rather watch someone leading the points all season, then this contrived nonsense for the chase. When it was a full season chase, a team could improve its position through the whole season and each race mattered. Now it’s points racing from Daytona on and it is just as boring as watching someone “run away” with the points, which as racebuster has pointed out, isn’t true at this point.

08/27/2013 01:32 PM

Am I the only one that thinks Kahne had no shot to pass Kenseth cleanly? Not because his car wasn’t fast enough, but because I beleive the dreaded clean air has now made its way to our short tracks

He tried 3 times unsuccessfully so I knew he either had to bump him out of the way or finish 2nd. The only excitement was finding out which one he would do.

And Kevin, if you don’t think the Chase has ruined the racing, not just at Bristol, but everywhere, you have your head in the sand as much as Brian France does. If there was no chase, you can bet Kasey would have tried harder. With only 2 races before the chase, he played the safe route and took “a good points day” as is usually the case.

I will give kudos to ESPN for their surprisingly good coverage. They showed battles pretty much all night long and was happy to see that. I’m usually critical of them, so I will give them credit when they do something right as well.

another Andy D
08/27/2013 08:16 PM

I was worried when I didn’t see this article early Monday morning, seeing that it was Saturday night race.
Thought it could be the end of ‘Thinking Out Loud’.
Shouldn’t have worried, it was a good recap of the race story and ended up having the bonus of Matt posting too.


Contact Mike Neff

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