There are races you mark down, make plans for, but there are few venues that seem to provide the kind of action that transforms those events into stand alone spectacles. Daytona is one. Talladega is another. You might want to add Darlington, for tradition sake, and Sonoma to the mix. Charlotte hosts the longest and next year they break out the road course for its second date. Then there are the two in Bristol, Tennessee.
While we continue to yearn for announcers who captivate us with their voices, delivery, dialogue, banter, information, or entertainment value, it does not matter this Saturday night. This time, the track will take care of all that itself. No one is going to run away from the pack. Lapped cars will matter if only for being in the way. Fenders are going to be dented, drivers are going to get hot, and fans are going to find their time well spent. That is not always the case in NASCAR. It is damn near becoming the exception to the rule, but Saturday night they are in Bristol.
I am not sure if we will have another offering from a shrill voiced fellow with a distinctive accent, but if your head announcer does not sound something like Ken Squier, Chris Economaki, or at the very least Mike Joy, do not hire them. If your booth announcers do not have the bantering chemistry of Kyle Petty and Wally Dallenbach, you have failed. If the race sucks, at least your announcers can not. The name of the game is to keep us watching. Thankfully, this is Bristol, so that does not matter as much this week.
It will be interesting to see how many of its 162,000 seats will be filled in Thunder Valley’s stadium like layout. If they fail to turn out to watch the action on the 0.533 mile track, if they are not crowded on the couch to take it all in at home, do not expect things to get any better when they get to Chicago, Dover, or Kansas. In future, a general rule of thumb would be if a race track is not designed to be the next Daytona, Talladega, Bristol, Sonoma, or even a Martinsville, do not build it.
If I did not follow the sport, if I did not know what each race means to each driver, if I had no idea what the Chase was or what the points meant, if I did not know the difference between an Earnhardt and an Erlich Bachman, I probably would watch only a dozen events each season for their stand alone entertainment value.
The race Saturday night at Bristol would be one of them.
1. MARTIN TRUEX JR. – 4 WINS (933 Pts)
If you want to win, you got to beat him…team mate or not…
2. KYLE LARSON – 3 WINS (804 Pts)
…just like Larson did last Sunday.
3. JIMMIE JOHNSON – 3 WINS (592 Pts)
Won at Bristol in the spring. Why not on a summer night?
4. BRAD KESELOWSKI – 2 WINS (720 Pts)
If Johnson does not win, another two-time Bristol winner would not mind wearing the suds.
5. RICKY STENHOUSE, JR. – 2 WINS (505 Pts)
Better half could be without a ride at SHR next year. I didn’t even know he and Kurt were dating.
6. KYLE BUSCH – 1 WIN (797 Pts)
They may be from Las Vegas, but Bristol is Busch country.
7. KEVIN HARVICK – 1 WIN (787 Pts)
Harvick is a champion, yet less popular than Junior or Danica. Maybe more so after last week.
8. DENNY HAMLIN – 1 WIN (710 Pts)
It is a girl!
9. RYAN BLANEY – 1 WIN (592 Pts)
Maybe Blaney can be the next Junior. You know, someone Harvick can harp on.
10. KURT BUSCH – 1 WIN (554 Pts)
Going into his 600th career race, the brothers have each claimed five at Thunder Valley.
11. RYAN NEWMAN – 1 WIN (536 Pts)
The invisible man was fourth last week while averaging 15.9 over the season.
12. KASEY KAHNE – 1 WIN (438 Pts)
After wrecking with Suarez on Sunday, I bet he wished he was still with the good hands people.
13. AUSTIN DILLON – 1 WIN (436 Pts)
Top Ten last week was his first since he won at Charlotte in late May.
14. CHASE ELLIOTT – 685 POINTS
Probably a near lock for the Chase, but that first career win sure would be nice.
15. JAMIE MCMURRAY – 675 POINTS
Could be 40 points higher if not for wrecking at Martinsville and Pocono.
16. MATT KENSETH – 654 POINTS
Odds of 4x Bristol winner making the Chase are better than driving a competitive car next year.
17. CLINT BOWYER – 623 POINTS
Pit penalties and a flat tire ruined his plans last week, and did him no favors hunting down Matt.
18. JOEY LOGANO – 556 POINTS (1 Win)
Might feel the worst, but if he came first it would turn his frown upside down.
19. ERIK JONES – 524 POINTS
Has a string of three Top Tens. Now he needs a Top One.
20. DANIEL SUAREZ – 515 POINTS
Actually 17th in points, but race winners Stenhouse, Kahne, and Dillon now sit ahead of him.