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.
- 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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