NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Who’s Hot & Who’s Not: Bristol Edition

For a while on Saturday night, the waiting was the hardest part for anyone interested in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway. But the once the raindrops stopped falling on heads, cars, pit boxes, etc., it turned into a fairly entertaining race for those of us who managed to stay up until about the 1:15 a.m. ET finish.

HOT

Right now, NASCAR is Kyle Busch’s world and everyone else is living it. Busch has won the last four major touring series races, including the last two Sprint Cup events. Obviously, he’s living a dream right now, taking the checkered flag regularly, doing his post-race bow and getting a kiss from his wife in Victory Lane. And guess, what? After Saturday night’s win, there were hardly any, if any at all, boos for Busch when he got out of the car and took his trademark bow. He has always had the ability to get on a roll, but now he’s got the patience and attitude for it. And maybe the biggest thing, is that he seems to be enjoying it, recognizing that this type of success just doesn’t come along very often in any sport.

NOT

The rain made it an extra-long night for everyone. The delay was long enough to have time to listen all of Bob Dylan’s songs that mention rain, you know, like Hard Rain, Buckets of Rain or even Rainy Day Women #12 & 35, which of course, does not have the word rain in it. Well, maybe you couldn’t listen to all 44 of Dylan’s songs that mention the word rain, but you get the idea.

(Photo: Matthew T. Thacker/NKP)
Is it only a matter of time until Joey Logano hits his stride in 2016? (Photo: Matthew T. Thacker/NKP)

HOT

We saw Saturday night what happens when you mix some hot lug nuts just off of a tire with a bit of spilled fuel from the gas can. Maybe the hottest moment of the night was when Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s pit stall caught on fire after one or more of those hot lug nuts just off of tire fell into some fuel, igniting a short-lived fire. It wasn’t a big deal in terms of safety as no one was injured, but it did look pretty cool in the Texas night and it didn’t bother Junior as he went on to finish second.

NOT

Getting the end game right when it comes to winning NASCAR races can be a pretty tricky thing. For pretty much the whole second half of the race, Martin Truex, Jr. was the class of the field. However, when it came time for a late pit stop call, crew chief Cole Pearn decided to keep Truex out, while almost all of the rest of the field went in to change tires. It’s an easy second-guess situation for sure, but the way the speeds were slowing as the tires wore down, as a driver, I would’ve been begging for four tires. It wasn’t a complete disaster for Truex as he finished sixth, but it’s tough to take that finish there when you know you had a winning car.

HOT

Joey Logano has yet to get on one his hot streaks like he did last year, but his third-place finish shows how good his team still is. Logano was meandering around in out and of the top 10 for much of the night, with not a terrible, or a great car. But he and crew chief Todd Gordon did get the end game right on the final restart and so what could have easily been a finish between 10th and 15th turned into a top 5. Not a bad night’s work for someone who didn’t really come close to leading a lap.

NOT

It looked like it might be another good night for rookie Ryan Blaney. He qualified seventh and certainly had reason to be optimistic during pre-race interviews. But once the race started, everything changed for the driver of the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford. Blaney was in a way-back machine as he had to fight various bad vibrations and other handling issues. He ended up with a 29th-place finish four laps down. That’s nowhere near where he expected, or wanted, to be at the end of the night.

Bristol Prediction: Sometimes it’s easy to overthink these things, but that’s not going to happen here: Have to go with Kyle Busch . . . who else? The deep sleeper, super underdog, someone you might not think of pick this week is Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (yes, that Ricky Stenhouse Jr.) who has three top-10 finishes in his last four trips to Bristol for an average finish of 8.25.

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