Race Weekend Central

Fanning the Flames: Yeah, I’ll Admit It; I Miss the Old Bristol Stomp

Ah, Bristol; you gotta love it. Even when we have a race that isn’t considered to be one of the all-time classics (Sunday’s was at best a 5.0 on the excitement scale) the fervor generated amongst the fanbase reaches a fever pitch. Old Bristol or new? Bump ‘n’ Run or hit the high groove? Frustration, bird flippin’ and post-race tirades… or more of the same old canned answers after the checkers?

See, what I miss about the “old” Bristol is the intense emotion of the whole show. The guys were crammed into a giant blender for three hours in melting hot pieces of steel and rubber that belched exhaust fumes and deafening noise. The makeup of the track and the cars mandated they use certain, uh, shall we say “means” of getting the business of the day done. Afterward, the frustration (or jubilation) and raw nerves of 43 men on the edge were bared for all to see.

See also
Full Throttle: Bristol and the New Car Not Pleasing the Casual Fan

Unfortunately, it’s not that way anymore.

Granted, it’s impressive watching a gaggle of cars sort its way out around the half-mile configuration. No doubt the action – racing in its purest form – is what I’d call actual racing. There’s nothing more eye-opening than watching ‘em go three-wide into a turn at speed and hold it, after all. But the thrill of the scene, the excitement in my belly, the anticipation and need to watch every pre-, post- and in-race second just isn’t there for me anymore.

Don’t misunderstand, I’ll still watch it all. But I’ll still watch every race, regardless. The local Saturday night short-track flavor is absent though, and that, for me – a guy who grew up going to a 0.375-mile oval out on Haynes Station Road – was a big draw.

So you all can bash me with your comments below. Tell me I only watch for the wrecks or that I’m not a “true race fan,” whatever that is. It ain’t true. And I ask who gave you the moral authority to decide who, and for what reasons, people are deemed “true fans.” There are countless aspects that draw us to this sport, and no one person is more or less a fan because of their individually unique perspective of each and every event.

With that in mind, the disdain and all-out verbal assaults for those that long for the short-track excitement Bristol, Martinsville, Richmond and Wilkesboro generated in the 1980s and ’90s needs to stop. It was a great time to be a race fan; it’s one aspect of what drew us to the sport and cultivated our love of it. It was raw passion, thrill of victory and blind rage – the ultimate high.

You disagree? Fine; but don’t tread on me for missing that. And certainly don’t condemn me or anyone else for thinking the way we do.

That said, let’s get on to our questions for the week. I’ve got a few that remain in R&D mode, so if you don’t see one of yours posted here just be patient. Talk to me, folks.

Q: How about that! NASCAR or Lowe’s or Sprint or somebody finally got one right! A 10-lap shootout to end the All-Star Race is what we have needed. I’m not sure whose bright idea it was to go away from that in the first place, but I am glad someone showed some smarts and brought it back. Finally, a great decision is made! – Linda Wells

A: I absolutely could not agree with you more, Linda. I’ve composed my annual All-Star rant each season in mid-May. The common theme in every column: Bring back the 10-lap shootout.

20 or 25 laps with these cars on this track (a 20- or 25-lap “shootout,” if you want to call it that, was the length of the final segment since 2002) does nothing but string the field out. I think I speak for everyone when I say we want Earnhardt/Elliott, Rusty/Darrell and Davey/Kyle, not Kasey Kahne falling ass backwards into a win because he had clean air.

Or maybe I shouldn’t speak for everyone. Considering the Bristol feedback, no one likes to see a guy so much as breathe on another guy’s car for fear we may – gasp – see someone spin out! After all, being aggressive just isn’t racing!

Q: Matt, we know Jeff Gordon has a 46-race winless streak because they talk about it on FOX and SPEED every week, and because you guys in the media remind us on a daily basis (I know you’re just doing your job). My question is who among active full-time drivers has the longest winless streak? Thanks! – Mike Hoskins

A: Boy, this is one of those times when you really don’t want to see your name in print. And by the way, after doing some research on this question, I realized that Jeffy’s winless slide is nothing. Here goes:

John Andretti, come on down! You’ve gone 196 races without a win! Remember Martinsville 1999? Yeah, me neither; but that’s when it occurred. And with the King, no less, owning your racecar.

Speaking of owners, Robby Gordon, you’re our next lucky dog. For as good a road racer as Robby is supposed to be, he hasn’t beaten the big boys since 2003 at Watkins Glen. That’s 191 races. Bobby Labonte is up next with an (un)impressive skid that dates back 185 races. That’d be Homestead ’03 with JGR.

The other full-timers whose stinky streaks stretch into triple digits are Michael Waltrip (167), Elliott Sadler (160) and Joe Nemechek (142). Other notables: Mark Martin (95), Kevin Harvick (76) and Brian Vickers (70).

And finally, those with zero wins to their credit in their Cup career are led by the fearless Dave Blaney, who has yet to win a points-paying race in 306 starts. Scott Riggs (169) and Reed Sorenson (114) seem to be the only other non-winners that have stretched it past 100. Sorry guys.

Q: Kyle Busch – what a punk! He showed his butt once again after the Nationwide race. He may be very talented, but with that attitude he’ll never get very far in life. At some point it all comes back around. Once he pulled away with less than 50 laps to go on Sunday, I just turned it off because I couldn’t watch him again. I’ll take his teammate Denny Hamlin at Martinsville. – David Grimes

A: I don’t know about life in general, but I figure that attitude will serve Kyle pretty well in the Cup Series. I love watching him pout, spit, cuss and stew. We need more of that fire. And if you think it bothers Kyle that you think he has an attitude problem, listen to what he said in his post-race press conference. This is classic:

“Well, I haven’t really paid attention a whole lot to the souvenir sales and stuff. I really don’t care about that stuff. I’m not out there to be No. 1 [in souvenir sales]. We all know who No. 1 is and forever will be.”

“For me, I don’t think I would enjoy having the most fans out there. I actually like the way I am, the role I portray. And I think that there’s probably too much pressure on one guy’s shoulders who doesn’t seem to win very often. But for us, it’s a blast to go out there and do what we do.”

Ouch. Keep hatin’, Dave. But I will agree with you about Hamlin at Martinsville.

OK, I’m done here. Watch out for those nuclear wieners this weekend. Let the skewering begin.

About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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