Is Bristol Back? Fans of stock car racing and NASCAR have been waiting for the race weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway. The track known as both “The last Coliseum” and “Thunder Valley” has a reputation for being one of the most exciting venues in the sport. It’s a place that tried driver’s nerves and heated their tempers. Just ask Denny Hamlin about how Bristol can get under your skin. It was good to see some exciting racing at Bristol once again.
For the last several seasons, following progressive banking being added to the track surface, racing at Bristol has been a bit boring. Now the question is if the track has aged enough and the cars have been adjusted enough to provide the fans with the old style racing that they expect at Bristol?
The answer is a combination of both “Yes” and “No.” The racing this past week at Bristol offered race fans a look at some of the old school style of racing they remember. Denny Hamlin went old school at Bristol and became the newest member of the throwing things at other drivers club.
Hamlin’s Hans Device
Last week NASCAR set new standards for how a driver is to exit his car following a wreck. Hamlin followed all of the protocol and still managed to find a way to express his anger. Hamlin was leading the race when Kevin Harvick attempted to pass Hamlin. The only problem was Harvick lost his car for a second and pushed Hamlin into the inside wall.
As he bounced back onto the track he was hit by Dale Earnhardt Jr’s car. Both drivers were effectively done for the night. Hamlin followed the new rules on exiting his car. He waited for the safety crews to arrive. He then exited with their held, gathered his items from the car and stayed with them as they guided him to a safe area and eventually to the care center to be checked over.
Perfect, all rules were followed. And that’s when Hamlin turned, spotted Harvick coming around the track and then tossed his HANS (head and neck support device) at Harvick's car. Hamlin remained on the apron when he threw his gear and did not step onto the track surface. According to NASCAR Hamlin will most likely not be penalized.
After throwing his gear at Harvick’s car moments early Hamlin appeared in front of camera’s for an interview and was still clearly mad. He began to rip into Harvick and even said that he hoped there was enough of his car left to get back out there and show some payback. However, he quickly began to calm down and by the end of the evening said that he knew Harvick would not have done that on purpose and that it was a mistake.
"He's not just going to take somebody out early in the race [on purpose],” Hamlin said during post race interviews. “I've got no problems with Kevin. He was trying too hard too
early. These short tracks are about patience. You have to show patience."
Harvick even admitted that it was a racing mistake on his part that ruined Hamlin and Earnhardt’s night. He was quick to apologize and even hit twitter later in the evening to let people know he was sorry to take two drivers out of the race on a mistake.
“To many driver mistakes tonight.. Apologize to my team for the speeding penalty to ruin our night & to @dennyhamlin for ruining his.”
Old and New
The racing at Bristol Motor Speedway in all of the NASCAR series offered race fans a bit of the old “Thunder Valley” that they were used to. The bump and run method of passing on a track with a low racing grove has been replaced. The new move that drivers are working on at Bristol is a dive and slide up the track for the pass. Plenty of cars were banged up, drivers lost their cool, and some equipment was tossed in anger.
We even had Kyle Busch getting into a spat with his crew chief following a series of bad luck for the driver. The night before Busch was upset about losing a race on a restart following a wreck. The old Bristol may be gone but the new one is finally beginning to offer up some of the magic, or anger, that fans used to enjoy.