Well, it’s back to racing for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup teams and there’s not a better place for them to return to work than Bristol. It should prove to be interesting to see how the drivers respond to their return after a week off to “rest and relax.” Some say the tensions will be high simply because “It’s Bristol, Baby!!” and it’s known for high banks, high speed and high emotions. Personally, I can’t disagree – the racing at Bristol does get intense at times.
One of the things that makes Bristol one of the more intense races is that it is basically a short track – only a little over a half mile oval – which carries with it that short track racing attitude. Emotions run high because it is extremely fast and very hard to pass. It doesn’t matter whether they run the middle, high or low groove, it’s just a hard place to pass if a driver has just a little bit of a better car than the one in front of him (or her). That just adds to the heightened emotions and frustrations of trying to gain positions as they work their way to the checkers. Plus – being a “short track” – the mentality of the drivers is a little different and bumping and banging or moving someone out of the way isn’t outside the realm of their thinking. In fact, it happens a lot more on short tracks and particularly at tracks like Martinsville and Bristol.
Taking just a little bit of a detour right now, I guess it’s about time I make my view of stage racing public even though I have mentioned it a little off and on so far this season. When push comes to shove, I wasn’t sure I would like it all that much. I mean I understood the idea of it but I wasn’t so sure it would work out the way NASCAR and the drivers thought it would. I have to admit, it has added quite a bit of intensity to the races and it doesn’t matter whether it is short track, mid size or super speedway. All of them have seen the intensity and added pressure for the drivers to perform at all times during the race. Of course adding the ability to gain additional points for the new playoff format at the end of the season doesn’t hurt either.
All of the things I’ve mentioned so far just add to the usual intensity of a short track race and with the drivers being fresh off of a weekend off just means some possible thoughts of payback and a little more adrenaline for all kinds of short track actions. You never know how one of them is going to respond to a little nudge or a bump if it is someone they might have had a little run in with earlier in the season. (Hey, I’m just sayin’…)
With the way things have gone so far this season, it does appear the younger drivers like Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney have adapted to the new stage racing format a little better than some of the rest. In fact, there are a lot of people that have shown up in the conversation more with the stage racing than they did last season. Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer, Ricky Stenhouse and others are names we just didn’t hear that much during a race without the stages. Now, it seems everyone presses to at least get some points via the stages and it does make things more interesting.
There are a couple of extra stories going on with the teams coming to Bristol. One obvious one is where the Gibbs racing teams really are. They just haven’t shown up as competitively so far this season as they did much of last season. We all know all of the teams, especially the bigger teams, go through a little slump now and again and it is still early in the season. It is surprising that we just haven’t heard that much from the JGR teams like Kyle Bush, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth yet. I do think we will soon though and it could just be they haven’t hit their stride yet this season with the new down force package and other items all of the teams have been contending with so far.
Jimmie Johnson put to rest the rumors they had lost their edge after he won Texas a couple of weekends ago. He came from the back and put a hurtin’ on the rest of the field even though he didn’t run away with it. Between Chase Elliott and him things don’t look all that dark for Hendrick but it does leave Dale Jr. and Kasey Kahne looking for better performances and this fan does wonder why they are struggling as much as they are. I guess they’re just adjusting to the new down force package too. (Well, at least I’m giving them a good excuse for their lack of performance so far…)
It is hard for me as a fan to pick one over another as a winner this weekend. Many have stated their choices but I just don’t have a real grasp on how this one is going to turn out. It could be another first time winner or it could be one that we just haven’t heard that much from yet this season. I guess that’s why I will be watching this one and wait to see who comes out on top. After all… It IS Bristol, Baby!!!
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© April 21, 2017 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated