It’s becoming commonplace to hear the “new Bristol” being described as too tame, too radical a departure from the old bullring every time NASCAR returns to tackle Bruton’s highest banks. And, after four years of experience with the track’s newest repaving it’s a debate that, for all intents and purposes has grown tired. Either one enjoys the side-by-side racing that inevitably ensues with three grooves and 43 cars taking to a half-mile circuit – the current format they see today – or they yearn to see the days of 2003, where over 20 cars were involved in crashes over the course of one Saturday evening.
Truth be told, both camps had something to be disappointed in when the checkered flag flew over Brad Keselowski this past weekend. Only six cautions interrupted the 500 laps run, and half of those were thrown for debris, a fourth for a blown motor. Crumpled sheet metal was at a premium. Problem is, so was meaningful side-by-side racing. Sure, the battle between Martin Truex, Jr. and Jeff Gordon for the runner-up slot as the laps wound down was intense. But that doesn’t change the fact that this short-track race was won the way they’re won at Fontana or Michigan: on pit road. Brad Keselowski had a good car all night, but he almost certainly did not have a car that was darn near a straightaway better than anyone else in the field.