Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Rating the Irwin Tools Night Race: 3 Stars ***

The annual night race at the bullring that is Bristol Motor Speedway returned Saturday night with a stadium that was ready to rock. Big time drivers fell out of the race like flies, and Shrub finally got his broom. This one gets swept into the history books with a 3 Star Rating.

Well, it finally happened. Kyle Busch had tried many times to win all three races in a NASCAR weekend. He even won the truck and Nationwide races in the same weekend twice but was unable to close the deal in the Cup race. This time, however, Busch dominated all three races, including going Dale Earnhardt on Brad Keselowski near the end of the Nationwide event.

That little situation set the stage for what many, definitely ESPN, thought would be a knock down, drag out type of race. Instead, it was rather mild. Jimmie Johnson jumped out to his seemingly mandatory lead at the start of the race and led for 171 of the first 172 laps before Busch completed his march to the front.

Johnson and Busch combined to lead 458 of the 500 laps in the race. However, the top five behind those two leaders continued to change throughout the night, with a few unexpected names showing up near the front, including David Reutimann, Clint Bowyer and Jamie McMurray.

McMurray continues to shine in the big time races this season. Four of his seven top fives have come in what could be considered NASCAR’s crown jewel events. He won both Daytona and the Brickyard, while finishing second and third in the Coca-Cola 600 and Saturday’s Bristol night race.

He isn’t yet in the Chase, but McMurray is putting together by far the best year of his career. To top things off, he now sits 13th in the points standings and 100 points behind Bowyer for the final spot.

Some people think the field is already set for the Chase, and realistically there is only one spot left in doubt. But, a 100-point difference is certainly not insurmountable. Each year at the end of the season, whoever’s turn it is to run second to Johnson for the championship runs well in the final few races and makes up ground to make it within reaching distance once Homestead rolls around.

This wasn’t one of the greatest races at Bristol, but people need to remember that not every race at Bristol is going to be terrific. The atmosphere at the track was amazing, but sometimes a race doesn’t come right down to the wire with cars crashing into one another. The Nationwide race took care of that this weekend. Saturday night’s race will be remembered for the historical achievement and that’s fine. Busch put together a weekend full of races that looked like old Jeff Gordon tapes.

Now we move on to the final off week of the season. Doesn’t it feel like we just took a week off? In any case, the next two races are usually two of the better races each season, and there is little reason to expect anything different this year.

Atlanta could really put on a show, as the cars will hit the track for the first time with spoilers under the lights on Labor Day weekend. Maybe we will get one of those fantastic Atlanta finishes, as well.


  1. Hey jmayer!

    Seems like we're stuck on 3... Guess that's better than a 2!

    Given all the possibilities, all the variables, all the little mechanical things that can break or come loose or go wrong, the weather, personal considerations, the competition, in other words, everything that swirls around these professional drivers, I have to believe what Kyle Busch just pulled off is truly amazing. One track, three different vehicles, starting at the back in one race (nobody had won that truck race from a starting position further back than 12th), drivers popping off in the pre-Cup race spin-up and the guy just goes out and wins. That in itself deserves a 5 star rating.

  2. Oh Dwindy - you and Gene are just too in love with Rowdy! I could win too if I wrecked my biggest competition who is on probation and cannot retaliate! LOL

    Naw seriously, Kyle made history but the race was only alright - hardly any lead changes with JJ and Kyle stinking up the lead. Nice to see some big names have trouble though.

    Only thing that wouldda made this a 5 star would have been JUNYER winning!

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed the recaps the next day of how Jamie was a contender for the win and possibly a top 12 in the championship if he keeps it up. I say the recaps cause I slept through most of the race!lol

  4. Kyle has won two in one weekend numerous times before, and not just truck and NW. Last Aug in Bristol he won the truck and Cup races. Numerous times he has won the NW and Cup races back to back.

    I thought the racing back through the field on Sat night was very good. Lots and lots of side-by-side racing... especially when Kyle was trying to lap them.

    With most drivers in 'protect the Chase' mode, I seriously doubt Atlanta will be too exciting.

  5. @ Kristen... nothing wrong with a little long distance bromance.

  6. Dwindy1 - I agree. This stretch of races has had a lot of decent races at tracks that aren't always known for great races, except Bristol. These races in general have been better than in the past.

    klvalus - lol, I do think things could of gone down differently if Keselowski wasn't on probation. This was one of the first times I've ever seen probation actually matter.

    ATHENS - McMurray had a great run and he was able to close the deal. Sometimes Bristol can be a turning point as far as making the Chase. He's still got a long way to go but could really make a run at it.

    Gene - Protecting a Chase position is fine, but everyone except Bowyer is pretty much locked in, and he had to race his butt off to get a good finish at Bristol. I think the bonus points will become a bigger factor than the 12th spot at this point.