In The Middle Of A Rainstorm, A Race Broke Out

Food City 500 March 2014

“If people don’t like the racing here tonight I don’t know what they want. Unless they just want a wreckfest I thought the racing was pretty good. Like I said you run mid-15 second laps on a half mile track and run three-wide that is pretty impressive.”– Tony Stewart

Lost in all the talk concerning rain delays, network telecast switches and accidentally tripped manual override switches was about the best darned spring race at Bristol we have seen in a while. It wasn’t “old” Bristol, it wasn’t “old” old Bristol. It appears we have a whole brand new Bristol.

Three wide racing on a short track? That wasn’t any technology on parade we saw Sunday night. You had leaders weaving their way through lapped traffic like a 100 mile per hour obstacle course. The part that made it cool was the fact that, unlike the old, old Bristol, you didn’t have drivers bumping each other off just to pass. It didn’t mean you wouldn’t have contact, it meant a wee tad more room to operate.

With 20 lead changes among 12 drivers, it sure was a lot better than we’ve seen in some time. This time last year, there were 17 lead changes among 10 drivers. In 2012, there were a paltry 13 lead changes among seven drivers. There also a number of races for position throughout the race. What about Matt Kenseth’s march through the field after getting plowed by Timmy Hill? Tony Stewart finished fourth after starting 37th!!! Six of the top ten finishers started the day outside the top ten.

If you’re like me, variety is the spice of life. Sports need their giants, but it’s nice to see the lesser lights shine, especially when it’s not on a restrictor plate track; a place where they can say they earned. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Aric Almirola and Marcos Ambrose all made top five finishes alongside Stewart, who can finally stop answering questions about whether or not he is fit to race after that long injury layoff. If you can handle 500 grueling laps at Bristol Motor Speedway, you can handle darn near anything.

Competition is good. It was good to see four Blue Ovals among the top five. Heck, that makes two weeks in a row Ford made victory lane.

It’s really too bad the foul winds of fortune (or maybe a lack of preparation) took some of the luster off the race. The argument can be easily made the series could probably benefit from coming to Bristol about two or three weeks later. Why not race Fontana and Texas while you’re already out West? The decision to switch from broadcast to cable coverage mid-race won;t go down as one of the smarter moves FOX has made either. ESPN has done it, but you have to know it won;t sit well with fans to go from broadcast to cable coverage. Then to cap it all off, the manual override on the caution lights could be leaned over to accidentally trip it? Seriously? I think for a switch that important, I want it protected. To err is human, I guess. You had better believe that won’t be a mistake made again.

Leave it to NASCAR to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The good news is there’s no rain in the forecast in California, and the racing was actually pretty good here last time. It will be interesting to see how the next foray onto a downforce track goes.