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Nascar Racing

Making It or Breaking It Under the Lights at Bristol

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Bristol Motor Speedway is one of the most popular race tracks on the NASCAR circuit. We’ve all heard all the commentators and talking heads talk about Bristol’s popularity throughout the week and just about every word imaginable has been used to describe it. We all know it is fast and its infield is one of the loudest the teams visit during practice, qualifying and all during the races held there.

All of those are good reasons for it to be so popular but the speed and the noise have very little to do with its popularity. The biggest reason fan’s love it is because of the racing that takes place there. One thing fans have always been able to count on has been the intensity of racing at Bristol and more than any other reason is why they show up in large numbers to watch. Add to the speed and intensity all of the emotions the drivers experience during a race and you have the formula for Saturday night short track racing under the lights that fans love.

I have to admit, I am one of those fans that loves the short tracks and, in particular, the racing that takes place under the lights on a Saturday night. It is what I grew up on and it has never lost its attraction for me. Keep in mind that when every seat is filled at Bristol at it holds at least one hundred and sixty thousand people and on a good night every one of those fans is often either on the edge of their seat or standing up cheering on their favorite drivers.

Racing prowess is not always the reason for the cheers (and jeers.) It is usually because someone has taken all the bumping, rubbing and nudging they can stand and has dished out some payback of some sort. Usually that means someone is either sliding into the wall or spinning to the inside of the track and coming away from the situation with more payback in mind while the crowd erupts in those cheers, jeers and ecstatic displays of emotion.

None of this is new to fans familiar with Bristol Motor Speedway but this year something is different. With the Gen 6 car, speeds are up and just about every driver is on the edge of wrecking at both ends. The line between racing and wrecking is as razor thin as this fan has ever seen. You don’t have to take my word for it though, just ask any driver and they’ll tell you the same thing. The fastest way around is now at the top right on the edge of the black tire rubber. (If they were on a dirt track, it would be called “the cushion.”) If they miss it by inches, they’re in the wall and, depending on how hard they hit, probably having to make a pit stop for repairs or at the very least, losing valuable track position.

From the very start of the first practice yesterday, it was very obvious the Gen 6 cars were going to be faster than they were in the spring and that the bottom was no longer the place to be. Like I said earlier, the fastest line has moved to the top up close to the wall and it didn’t take long for the drivers to find that out. Over time as the rubber began to become more obvious, they also found the top line to be precarious. Missing it by a fraction and getting into the debris just outside the groove usually meant a brush with the wall and possible repairs. That’s what may make tonight’s race so interesting and picking a winner so difficult.

If you’re a regular visitor here at “Just A Fan’s View”, you already know what I think of statistics, but, the statistics do say the ones that win at Bristol usually start in the top ten. That’s not to say someone starting further back can’t or won’t win. It’s just that starting out front and maintaining good track position throughout the night has its advantages, especially with the Gen 6 car. With 43 cars, the closeness of the competition and that razor edge top racing groove anything can happen but those out front have an advantage over those in the back as long as they don’t miss the line.

Take for example two drivers that are trying very hard to make it solidly into the Chase. Kurt Bush and Jeff Gordon were constantly trading the fastest lap times back and forth and it looked like either one of them might take the pole during qualifying. As it turned out one of them did turn in a good time in qualifying and the other one didn’t. Kurt starts outside pole next to Denny Hamlin and Jeff Gordon starts 32nd simply because Kurt hit the line and Jeff missed it. Unless Jeff can make something happen tonight from that far back in the pack, in this fan’s opinion he is probably not going to make it into the Chase this year.

Kyle Bush also struggled with the razor edge top line in qualifying and he will start 43rd in tonight’s race. Even though he has already won in the Truck Series and the Nationwide series this week at Bristol, making a clean sweep of the weekend may not happen for him this time. Of course, if anyone can win at Bristol after starting 43rd it would be him from this fan’s view. A lot can happen that won’t be in his control and starting back that far makes it more likely he could get caught up in someone else’s problems.

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 24, 2013 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions

By Rusty Norman

Amateur writer, NASCAR Fan, musician and former local Stock Car racer.