Bristol is where the legends win. Darrell Waltrip won a dozen times there. Cale Yarborough, Dale Earnhardt, and Rusty Wallace each had nine. Then there is Kyle Busch, who’s victory on Saturday night pushed him to six, one more than his brother Kurt and David Pearson. Each one in the Hall of Fame, or will be. No exceptions.
As far as races go, Bristol provided a decent amount of excitement. It was not one for the ages, but few are. Rowdy claimed his 40th career Cup win, to go with his wins in the junior and truck series on the weekend at the same locale. I guess I should be all a quiver that he pushed his career totals to 91 XFINITY and 49 Camping World victories. That is 180 when all three are combined, just 20 short of Richard Petty’s record in Grand National and Cup. Do the records compare? Let the debate begin.
Erik Jones is 21-years-old, with 15 wins in the two secondary series but still looking for his first Cup victory. His second place finish Saturday night was fine, but he still needs that victory if he is to make the Chase. With the exception of one other car, he earned it. Busch just earned it more.
At this time of the year, when all but three playoff positions are written in stone, it has come down to winning. No one is going to catch those hanging on to those three spots except by a win. The best Jones could do was move past Joey Logano into 18th on the ladder and that is just not good enough. Unless Logano, Jones, or someone still winless comes through at Darlington or Richmond, our list of contenders for the championship has been set.
However, Saturday night was a good night for racing, a good points day for some racers. Very good for the younger Busch and Jones, pretty good for Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin, and Matt Kenseth. For the latter, he moves three points ahead of Jamie McMurray into 15th, but with Clint Bowyer still 58 points behind him, McMurray has nothing to worry about. Well, unless the wrong guy wins one of these next two races. The gap between McMurray and Chase Elliott sitting in 14th is just 11 points. Should one of those not yet in come up with a win, then things could get pretty darn exciting, but only then.
Brad Keselowski had a tire go down six laps in, and that was the last we saw of him last Saturday. Austin Dillon broke loose and got into a wreck during the second stage to end his day. Still, each is locked in the Chase, so the impact was minimal.
Winning the next race, however, can help make a career. Win the Daytona 500, and you become somebody. Just ask Michael Waltrip and Sterling Marlin. Win the World 600, and you have passed the test in the longest race on the schedule. Win the Brickyard 400, and you get to kiss the masonry at the finish line.
Coming up is the fourth jewel among NASCAR’s iconic events. One you will be remembered for even if it is the only checkered flag you ever get. Darlington and the Southern 500. Kenseth won it in 2013. Regan Smith has just one Cup win, but it was there in 2011. No one else currently not locked into the Chase has claimed the prize. Now would be the time to make a little history in South Carolina. Action resumes on Sunday, September 3.