It’s Bristol Night Racing Time from a NASCAR Fan’s View


Rusty Norman

Tonight is not just another Saturday night under the lights… this is “Bristol, Baby!” This is the night many NASCAR fans look forward to and it is, and has been, one of the most popular races for NASCAR fans of all ages for a long time. It is a fast half mile track with high banking and there’s no lack of action throughout the race. It is also a race that could be a last chance for some outside the realm of making the playoffs on points to win and knock someone already in on points, out. Then that driver becomes one of the ones needing to win to get in. Man, talk about drama and intensity! There is no lack of it in this 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.

Yeah, it’s really beginning to get interesting and there are some big names that are in by points but they could be gone if someone outside the top sixteen wins a race. Well, at least one big name. Just in case you’re wondering which driver I’m talking about, that would be seven-time Cup champ, Jimmie Johnson, currently fifteenth in points. Both he and his teammate, Alex Bowman, are on thin ice if someone outside the top sixteen wins one of the remaining three races, tonight’s included.

Once again the Chevys have a lot to prove and it is possible they could. Now, you know I don’t put a lot of stock in qualifying when it comes to how a driver and team will perform in the race but, there are three Chevys qualified in the top five. Until recently, that just hasn’t been the case. Actually, it did come as a surprise to this fan that it even happened this weekend. I guess I just wasn’t expecting it. Admittedly the Chevys have been showing signs of life recently, but it has been relatively sporadic. Oh sure, I know they actually have shown some speed but not always at the right times on race weekend.

It is interesting to this fan that the younger Chevy drivers seem to be the ones with the improved speed more so than the older ones. Now please, don’t take me wrong. It just seems that Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon, Bubba Wallace and William Byron seem to be getting the most attention these days when it comes to the Chevy teams and rightly so. From this fan’s view, they have been the ones running near or at the front and it is noteworthy. I’m not knocking the ones that have been around the Cup Series for a longer period of time or their performance. They just don’t seem to be running near the front as often as the younger ones.

Okay, let me give credit where credit is due. Ryan Newman, Jamie McMurray and Jimmie Johnson have been around the sport a while and they just aren’t showing the same noticeable performance as the younger guys. That doesn’t mean they haven’t shown signs of improvement, but the results at the end of a race just don’t seem to be there.

Another place they seem to be lacking is in qualifying. It appears to this fan they just aren’t qualifying as good as the others. Just look at this weekend’s results in qualifying as an example. Kyle Larson on the pole, Chase Elliott outside pole and William Byron starting fifth. Jimmie Johnson starting thirteenth, Jamie McMurray twentieth and Ryan Newman twenty fourth. That’s just a pretty good example of what I’m talking about and, once again from this fan’s perspective, it likely has very little to do with how any of them will finish out the race.

If Kyle Larson wins tonight, it could mean he swept the weekend since he won the Xfinity race last night. He has looked strong in the practices and qualifying and very well could win this one from the pole. Chase Elliott and William Byron aren’t that far behind in the qualifying speed department and either of them could end up the night with a victory. I’m not expecting anything like that to happen but it could and it would really make a statement about the performance of the Chevys, especially the Hendrick Chevys.

On the other hand, I also see Kyle Bush starting third and Paul Menard starting fourth. It goes without saying either of them could win and what an impact it would make if Menard took the win – he is currently in eighteenth spot in the playoff standings. Along with all of this, just look at the Stewart/Haas teams and how they’ve been running. Kevin Harvick has seven wins and could be considered one of the top contenders tonight. When comparing the qualifying speeds of the top twenty or so, they’re all not that far apart. To this fan, that means it will be hard to pass and hard to pull away.

When it comes down to tonight’s race, I expect to see a lot of passing and repassing simply because the speeds of many of the top qualifiers are so close. I also expect it to be an intense race with a lot of emotion and probably a few temper flare ups. We know there’s going to be bumping and banging and likely a lot of contact with the wall, whether it happens on their own or because they have help. How do I know all of this? Because “it’s Bristol, baby!!”

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 18, 2018 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
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