*Will fans be pleased regardless of how the race plays out at Bristol?*
If you use Bristol’s 40% figure when they decided to reconfigure the track _back_ to where it was before the first one, you’ll see that those fans were in the minority. Yet the track decided to spend millions of dollars to try and reverse time and get fans back in the stands.
Well if Wednesday night’s Truck Series race was any indication, it didn’t do anything like that. There was plenty of side-by-side racing to be found – heck, we even saw three wide on many occasions! At Bristol!
And yet, there were many fans still unhappy. Following along on Twitter, I saw what looked to be about half (or 40%) who were still unhappy with the racing. “It’s not short track racing!” they said. “Where is all the beating and banging?”
Yet, the other half (or, more accurately, 60%) were loving it! Sure the “bump and run” really didn’t exist as passing on the high side was still a possibility for some trucks, but the ability for them to race side by side proved to be exciting. There weren’t many cautions through the first half of the race and one driver led the whole thing, yet many fans were very happy with how the race played out.
My guess is the fan reaction will be the same regardless of how the racing is. In fact, it may be worse if, for whatever reason, the Cup race goes back to old Bristol. A straight line of cars all the way around the racetrack with passing only working with the tap of a bumper will likely be called boring. It will be “old fashioned” sure, but I guarantee the people complaining about the Truck Series race would hate the exact thing they are asking for. NASCAR really can’t win either way.
*Does Jimmie Johnson redeem himself from the “walk away” last week?*
Johnson’s refusal to talk to the press after blowing the engine with five laps to go last week has even a few writers on this site giving him grief for it. If you read Mirror Driving this week, you already know my take on it.
Regardless, everyone is in agreement that this was out of character for the five-time champion. He’s always quick to give his take on something that happens and isn’t one to show much emotion—good or bad. While my guess is that his reasoning had a lot to do with his emotions at the time, well, you don’t have to hear my guess. He’ll be in the media center at 11AM on Friday and you can bet that someone will ask him about it.
I doubt Johnson will do anything like this again, barring another heart-wrenching loss. If he gets bugged about it enough this weekend, I bet that will elevate itself to “never.”
*Can Keselowski, Penske Racing learn from the Hendrick Motorsports “advantage”?*
Keselowski’s allegations that Hendrick Motorsports is essentially messing with the car were a little strange, and it _may_ prompt NASCAR to make changes. However, if it prompts any changes at all, it should be with Keselowski and Penske Racing. The phrase “If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’” isn’t just thrown around because it sounds cool. It’s because there is some truth to it. Hendrick Motorsports isn’t just filled with talent. They are filled with very smart people who are able to push that gray area. Have you noticed that it works for them?
Keselowski has already said he considers himself to be a championship caliber driver, but they likely won’t beat the Hendrick brigade unless they try a few tricks of their own.
*What can Biffle do this weekend to prove he is championship material?*
Two victories right now are nice, but they won’t win him the championship. And while one more win this weekend won’t exactly convince the masses what he is capable of, it will at least show that Biffle can master consistency _and_ victories, two key qualities that I believe the eventual champion is going to need in order to seal the deal.
A win at Bristol would also help Biffle since he isn’t exactly known as a short track driver. None of his 18 career victories have come at a track shorter than a mile in length, and only two of those were on tracks shorter than 1.5 miles. Stepping up his diversity as a driver would possibly prove he is more of a threat than he appears. Then again, Martinsville is an even bigger hurdle for him. At the end of the season, it may wind up just not being enough. Time will only tell.
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