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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

The Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2009 Food City 500 at Bristol

Who… gets my shoutout of the race?

For a driver who has never had Bristol figured out in the past, Jimmie Johnson looked like he hit on something this time around. Johnson led 88 laps and looked comfortable with the Bristol confines, even though a late-race pit miscue cost him a chance at the win. To Johnson and the No. 48 team, it must have felt like one anyway.

What… exactly is the solution to lapped traffic holding up lead lap cars?

I really don’t know, but there were many times that lapped cars held up the leaders and cost lead-lap cars battling for position. It’s one thing when a driver is trying to stay on the lead lap or even race for the free pass, but when cars that are multiple laps down are racing the race leaders like they were going for the win, too, it’s detrimental to the race. Bobby Labonte was going down for the second time when he let Kyle Busch go and then held up Johnson for a long time, costing the fans an on-track battle for the race lead, and that was just one incident. I know it’s a matter of pride, but guys… get out of the way.

Where… did the polesitter wind up?

Finally living up to expectations. For Mark Martin, a string of shaky starts had the veteran considered by many to be the best driver ever without a title sitting on the bubble in 35th place in owner points, a virtual no-man’s land for the driver who many expect to make a legitimate title run this year. The Hendrick Motorsports driver was solid all day, finishing sixth. The run meant that three Hendrick drivers came home in the top 10 on the day.

When… will I be loved?

Juan Pablo Montoya should be sidling up to the karaoke and requesting this number after knocking Jamie McMurray around early in the race. To the naked eye, it sure looked intentional; Montoya popped McMurray a couple of times before the No. 26 finally spun around. NASCAR apparently agreed-the sanctioning body gave Montoya a warning that further aggressive driving would result in a penalty. Tough crowd.

Why… isn’t NASCAR more concerned with the overall health of its racing series?

It seems like the more the economy hurts the sport, the more NASCAR looks like Nero, fiddling while the empire burns. While NASCAR is a business, and as such, deserves to earn a profit if it can, turning a blind eye to the troubles of the teams and speedways is not exactly a sound long-term practice. Instead of accepting the money for the 10,000th “Official Whooziwhatsis of NASCAR,” why not point that company toward a team like the Nos. 28 or 44, who will not race the season without sponsorship dollars. If teams fall by the wayside, NASCAR stands to lose; television money is only paid in full if a full field shows up to race. Whether NASCAR has to pay a team to start the race or loses the TV money, they are taking a loss, where the initial loss of the Official Whateverthatis has the potential to help the sport more in the long run, these other losses do nobody any good.

How… cool was the Saturday Night Special?

Sure, many of them showed how far past their driving prime they were, but for me, it was an amazing race to watch. I never had the chance to watch many of these racers before, and had always wished otherwise. Getting to see Cale Yarborough and Junior Johnson go head to head with Rusty Wallace and Jimmy Spencer was, for a few laps on Bristol’s high banks, magic in the making. I was disappointed when Johnson was going to miss the race after a tangle with Spencer in practice, and by the sound of the cheers when it was announced that his car was repaired and the legendary driver, owner and ‘shine runner would, indeed be able to race, there were many others who wanted to see the original Junior take to the track one more time. And how about LD Ottinger, who, at age 70 and not having raced a car in years, raced his way toward the front like a man on a mission? Short lived, yes, but it was an incredible night of racing.

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