Bristol Motor Speedway is famous for short tempers and rough racing. Sunday at The World’s Fastest Half-Mile, however, there wasn’t much excitement; the stands were only filled halfway, and the race felt drawn-out. Some of the highlights were Denny Hamlin’s Dougie when he was introduced, a wreck that took out six cars that were winning-material, and the addition to extra timing lines on pit road. Nevertheless, we got stories from the Food City 500, and here they are:
Brad Keselowski looked at Bristol with confidence; he won the August race at the short track. Throughout practice, his car showed much promise, and he tweeted, “This is the best car I’ve had.” If you’re going to be bold, you have to back it up, and Keselowski did just that. He ran a good race, not getting into trouble or falling back. After two close restarts with Daytona 500 champ Matt Kenseth, Brad soared to victory after leading 232 laps. By backing up the Fall victory, I see Keselowski as a serious contender this year. He had a remarkable resurgence in 2011, coming back from a serious wreck at Road Atlanta that fractured his ankle, winning twice afterwards. He has the focus and talent of a champion, and I’m anticipating great things from the driver of the #2. Watch out, folks: Bad Brad is ready to make another run at the title.
This season has gotten off to a great start for Greg Biffle, who collected three Top Five finishes in the first three races of the season. Capturing the pole for Bristol was icing on the cake. The Biff is the most confident I have seen this year, and it’s refreshing. As soon as the green flag dropped, he got the lead. His car ran great all day, but it dropped off near the end. Even if he ended up in thirteenth, Biffle should have a smile on his face; he is leading the points, and he will continue to improve if he keeps his confidence level up. Many wonder if showing signs of success this early will prove to diminish championship hopes, yet I see it differently; this is a head start. Honestly, Greg deserves this attention. While Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth made noise in The Chase, and David Ragan lost his ride in the #6, Biffle was left in the shadows. He used that time to work with his team and fix what was wrong. I applaud Greg hitting the ground running, but consistency doesn’t get you far. He needs to win races to secure himself in The Chase, which I see him doing without a problem.
At the end of last year, Red Bull Racing was in its final races as a team, shutting down after the season due to money troubles. Brian Vickers, then the driver of the #83, had no ride, and wrecking Matt Kenseth at Martinsville in October didn’t help his chances. As the feud carried over to Phoenix between the two, it was silently known among people that Vickers wasn’t going to be picked up by a race team. Fast forward to earlier this month, when Michael Waltrip Racing announced that Mark Martin seat in the #55 would open for six races. Soon, Vickers was chosen to fill the spot. Not only did it bring attention to the driver, it gave him a second chance to prove himself. Filling his last weeks at RBR with damaged cars and a flaring temper didn’t help his case, but he redeemed himself this weekend; Vickers brought the car home in fifth, after leading 125 laps Sunday. NASCAR is a sport where, if you fall out of the top rank, you will most likely not return. MWR might have saved Brian Vickers from being out of NASCAR permanently. Seeing him run very well caught a few team owners’ eyes, I’m sure.
The drivers and teams head to California for the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway, a two-mile long track with fourteen degrees in the turns, eleven degrees on the frontstretch, and three degrees on the backstretch. The Nationwide Series runs first this Saturday, and I chose Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to take the checkered flag. On the Sprint Cup side, Kevin Harvick is the returning race winner, and I see him repeating on Sunday.