The Frontstretch: Fanning the Flames: Yeah, I'll Admit It; I Miss The Old Bristol Stomp by Matt Taliaferro -- Thursday March 26, 2009

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Fanning the Flames: Yeah, I'll Admit It; I Miss The Old Bristol Stomp

NASCAR Fan Q & A · Matt Taliaferro · Thursday March 26, 2009


Ah, Bristol; you gotta love it. Even when we have a race that isn’t considered to be one of the all-time classics (Sunday’s was at best a 5.0 on the excitement scale) the fervor generated amongst the fan base reaches a fever pitch. Old Bristol or new? Bump ‘n’ Run or hit the high groove? Frustration, bird flippin’, and post-race tirades… or more of the same old canned answers after the checkers?

See, what I miss about the “old” Bristol is the intense emotion of the whole show. The guys were crammed into a giant blender for three hours in melting hot pieces of steel and rubber that belched exhaust fumes and deafening noise. The makeup of the track and the cars mandated they use certain, uh, shall we say “means” of getting the business of the day done. Afterward, the frustration (or jubilation) and raw nerves of 43 men on the edge were bared for all to see.

Unfortunately, it’s not that way anymore.

Granted, it’s impressive watching a gaggle of cars sort its way out around the half-mile configuration. No doubt the action — racing in its purest form — is what I’d call actual “racing.” There’s nothing more eye-opening than watching ‘em go three-wide into a turn at speed and hold it, after all. But the thrill of the scene, the excitement in my belly, the anticipation and need to watch every pre-, post- and in-race second just isn’t there for me anymore.

Don’t misunderstand, I’ll still watch it all. But I’ll still watch every race, regardless. The local Saturday night short track flavor is absent though, and that, for me — a guy who grew up going to a 3/8th-mile oval out on Haynes Station Road — was a big draw.

So you all can bash me with your comments below. Tell me I only watch for the wrecks or that I’m not a “true race fan,” whatever that is. It ain’t true. And I ask who gave you the moral authority to decide who, and for what reasons, people are deemed “true fans.” There are countless aspects that draw us to this sport, and no one person is more or less a fan because of their individually unique perspective of each and every event.

With that in mind, the disdain and all-out verbal assaults for those that long for the short track excitement Bristol, Martinsville, Richmond, and Wilkesboro generated in the 1980s and ’90s needs to stop. It was a great time to be a race fan; it’s one aspect of what drew us to the sport and cultivated our love of it. It was raw passion, thrill of victory, and blind rage — the ultimate high.

You disagree? Fine; but don’t tread on me for missing that. And certainly don’t condemn me or anyone else for thinking the way we do.

That said, let’s get on to our questions for the week. I’ve got a few that remain in R&D mode, so if you don’t see one of yours posted here just be patient. Here’s your trusty little red link to my world. Talk to me, folks.

How about that! NASCAR or Lowe’s or Sprint or somebody finally got one right! A 10-lap shootout to end the All-Star race is what we have needed. I’m not sure whose bright idea it was to go away from that in the first place, but I am glad someone showed some smarts and brought it back. Finally, a great decision is made!
— Linda Wells

A: I absolutely could not agree with you more, Linda. I’ve composed my annual All-Star rant each season in mid-May. The common theme in every column: Bring back the 10-lap shootout.

20 or 25 laps with these cars on this track (a 20 or 25-lap “shootout,” if you want to call it that, was the length of the final segment since 2002) does nothing but string the field out. I think I speak for everyone when I say we want Earnhardt/Elliott, Rusty/Darrell, and Davey/Kyle, not Kasey Kahne falling ass backwards into a win because he had clean air.

Or maybe I shouldn’t speak for everyone. Considering the Bristol feedback, no one likes to see a guy so much as breathe on another guy’s car for fear we may — gasp — see someone spin out! After all, being aggressive just isn’t racing!

Thanks to the media, we can never forget that Jeff Gordon is in the midst of a 46-race winless streak.

Matt, we know Jeff Gordon has a 46-race winless streak because they talk about it on FOX and SPEED every week, and because you guys in the media remind us on a daily basis (I know you’re just doing your job). My question is who among active full-time drivers has the longest winless streak? Thanks!
— Mike Hoskins

A: Boy, this is one of those times when you really don’t want to see your name in print. And by the way, after doing some research on this question, I realized that Jeffy’s winless slide is nothing. Here goes:

John Andretti, come on down! You’ve gone 196 races without a win! Remember Martinsville 1999? Yeah, me neither; but that’s when it occurred. And with The King, no less, owning your race car…

Speaking of owners, Robby Gordon, you’re our next lucky dog. For as good a road racer as Robby is supposed to be, he hasn’t beaten the big boys since 2003 at Watkins Glen. That’s 191 races. Bobby Labonte is up next with an (un)impressive skid that dates back 185 races. That’d be Homestead ’03 with JGR.

The other full-timers whose stinky streaks stretch into triple digits are Michael Waltrip (167), Elliott Sadler (160), and Joe Nemechek (142). Other notables: Mark Martin (95), Kevin Harvick (76), and Brian Vickers (70).

And finally, those with zero wins to their credit in their Cup career are led by the fearless Dave Blaney, who has yet to win a points-paying race in 306 starts. Scott Riggs (169) and Reed Sorenson (114) seem to be the only other non-winners that have stretched it past one hundred. Sorry guys.

Kyle Busch — what a punk! He showed his butt once again after the Nationwide race. He may be very talented, but with that attitude he’ll never get very far in life. At some point it all comes back around. Once he pulled away with less than 50 laps to go on Sunday, I just turned it off because I couldn’t watch him again. I’ll take his teammate Hamlin at Martinsville.
— David Grimes

A: I don’t know about life in general, but I figure that attitude will serve Kyle pretty well in the Cup Series. I love watching him pout, spit, cuss and stew. We need more of that fire. And if you think it bothers Kyle that you think he has an attitude problem, listen to what he said in his post-race press conference. This is classic:

“Well, I haven’t really paid attention a whole lot to the souvenir sales and stuff. I really don’t care about that stuff. I’m not out there to be No. 1 [in souvenir sales]. We all know who No. 1 is and forever will be.”

“For me, I don’t think I would enjoy having the most fans out there. I actually like the way I am, the role I portray. And I think that there’s probably too much pressure on one guy’s shoulders who doesn’t seem to win very often. But for us, it’s a blast to go out there and do what we do.”

Ouch. Keep hatin’, Dave. But I will agree with you about Hamlin at Martinsville.

OK, I’m done here. Watch out for those nuclear wieners this weekend. Let the skewering begin.

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03/26/2009 07:11 AM

Matt, this last weekend was the first one I have missed at Bristol in a while. But I had to stay home as my dear wife told me I could either go and spend my 50th birthday in a tent with 2 other guys or stay home and spend it with her. I put up a gallant fight….yes dear I’ll start unpacking the truck.

And much to my delight it was well worth it as she threw me a wonderful surprise party with 50 of my dearest friends and one of the coolest gifts I have ever received. She purchased a spot at the RIR Richard Petty Driving Experience and a Ride Along pass. You just gotta love a woman that loves a guys’ passion.

Anyway, I liked the racing at Bristol this last weekend. True, it’s not what it used to be, but, it was great racing. I truly believe there’s not a red blooded male out there that doesn’t like to see a little beating and banging and a spin or two, but not a whole race worth of it. And that’s what Bristol used to be… a huge wreck fest… and that’s not racin’. That’s just plain ole beat your way to the front. It was cool to see cars run 2 and 3 wide down the straightaway into the turns. It had you hanging on the edge of the seat…now didn’t it? Yeah, the old Bristol was fun, but I think the new Bristol is even better! But, “to each his own” as the saying goes.

Kevin in SoCal
03/26/2009 01:11 PM

If Ken Schrader was still racing he’d own the current non-winning streak. He hasnt won another race since when, 1992? Derrick Cope hasnt won again since 1990, and what is Kyle Petty’s winless streak? I’m sure its on Jayski somewhere.

Matt T. --
03/26/2009 01:24 PM

You’re right Kevin. Their current streaks look like this:
Schrader: 543
Kyle: 406
Cope: 326

Walt B
03/26/2009 05:54 PM

Matt I have never been a short track fan but I have to admit that tho the racing may be better since the changes in the track. The race is not as exciting and lacks the drama of previous races

Master Braytak
03/26/2009 07:58 PM

I miss the faster car mear inches off the rear of the car in front lap after lap waiting for a chance for a pass. I miss the slower car doing all he can just to hold the position, and doing all he can to hold his line. I miss the Saturday night short track feel that Bristol used to have.

Bristol was a throwback to the early days of stock car racing where it was all about beating and banging, and a take no prisoners attitude. This was the type of racing that made me a fan. Not the crashes, but the balls to the walls style of racing that is now sadly gone.

Bring back The Rock, North Wilksboro and put the bias plies back on at Darlington on Labor Day. My Nascar is long gone, and sadly I must say I do not really care to follow it anymore. Thanks for the memories Nascar, and give me a call if you figure it out some day.

03/26/2009 11:09 PM


Oh Yeah! you’re talkin’ my language. Bristol has changed, for sure. But, it’s gotten so much better. When you were driving that Haynes Station Road track, Matt, how glad were you to lose when the other guy bashed your sides in? How glad were you to let that guy go when he wrecked your car and left you running 15th out of 20? That kind of racing should be left for the local tracks, where guys are learning to control their cars and their tempers.

Bristol was perfect. It was short track racing by professional drivers that had more than pride at stake. Did ya see the several three-wide passes that occurred? That’s racing! How can ya say that Bristol isn’t good? These are the pros. you need to pay attention.


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Contact Matt Taliaferro

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