Bristol of old rears its ugly head, shows Chase contenders who's in charge
Still longing for the Bristol Motor Speedway of old? Not after the half-mile bullring had its way with the Sprint Cup field Saturday night, writes David Newton.
Updated: August 24, 2008, 2:23 AM ETBy David Newton | ESPN.com
Geoff Burke/Getty ImagesAmong the casualties in this midrace pileup was Kasey Kahne, whose No. 9 Dodge caught fire briefly.
BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Welcome back, Bristol Motor Speedway.Just when many thought you'd lost that nastiness that made you the best show in the Sprint Cup Series, you bowed your back, showed your claws and reminded contenders for the championship Chase on Saturday night why this is such a wild-card race.Three drivers battling for a playoff spot were sitting in the garage with mangled sheet metal, another was a lap down and another had severe damage to the front end before the halfway point.Points leader Kyle Busch barely escaped your bite, having to dip to the bottom of the apron to avoid a blazing Dave Blaney while leading on Lap 292.Tempers flared. Busch bumping winner Carl Edwards on the cooldown lap and Edwards retaliating by spinning out Busch -- who got invited to the NASCAR hauler for a chat -- is what fans have come to expect from you.
Some even got mad when it wasn't deserved. That was the case when Clint Bowyer screamed over his radio that "Michael Walrip is the worst driver in NASCAR -- period," although the multicar wreck that damaged Bowyer's front end wasn't Waltrip's fault.
Sam Sharpe/US PresswireJeff Burton (31) and Sterling Marlin (09) finished 42nd and 43rd after their race-ending crash.
It was nothing like the boredom that was created a year ago when your new pavement created two- and three-wide racing and NASCAR's new car took away the bump-and-spin-out-the-car-ahead-of-you-to-pass move.Not that Saturday night's drama was all your doing. Dale Earnhardt Jr., who came here fourth in points, passed about a dozen cars before he reached the green flag on the opening lap to draw a pass-through penalty from NASCAR and go a lap down.But Earnhardt actually moved up a spot in the standings to third because Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson wrecked early and finished 18 laps back in 33rd.The seven-car pileup on Lap 216 simply was the result of poor eyesight by Casey Mears' spotter."Clear, clear, clear," the spotter said as Mears drove between Turns 1 and 2.Seconds later, after a brief period of sheet metal grinding against sheet metal, Mears responded, "I wasn't clear."It was a funny exchange, but not to Kasey Kahne, whose car was destroyed as a result. Or to Bowyer, who still was blaming Waltrip for the damage that may have kept him from contending for a win instead of fighting for seventh to move up a spot to 12th in the standings.Kahne took the hardest hit, falling three spots to 14th in the standings with two races left before the 12-car playoff is set.
I love racing at Bristol. It's a great place with great fans. It's just a bad deal for us tonight.
-- Kasey Kahne
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