Bristol Motor Speedway has never been as rapturous as it was Saturday night. Its beautiful black magic curled around the field, slipping between every cavern in the car and the drivers’ passion. What has become common in Tennessee’s Thunder Valley was a full-blown storm this time around, and nobody could complain.
Well, that last part is a lie.
Action was sprinkled throughout the night, and the laps seemed to go on forever. Cars began to drop off one by one, ranging from lapped cars to those who led the way. Everyone had the same probability of Fate snatching them up and slamming them against the wall. Every drive had an issue at one point or another.
Matt Kenseth suffered a speeding penalty, but that was the only thing that ailed him. That sudden stroke of luck allowed him to win for the fifth time this year, surviving a mid-season slump. He is essentially locked into The Chase and will have the lead when the points reset after Richmond.
The last few laps summed up the race perfectly. Kasey Kahne, charging hard, was on Kenseth’s bumper the final ten laps. The winner of the Spring race earlier this season, Kahne had bottled up anger towards the No. 20. The two tussled at Watkins Glen a few weeks ago. Add that to the three scuffles Kahne has had with Kyle Busch, and the driver of the No. 5 is one unhappy camper. He even took to Twitter after The Glen, stating he was going to the Joe Gibbs Racing shop to talk to “whoever will talk to me.” At the end of the tweet was the hashtag “Thats4.” Cryptic.
Although Kahne was there, he didn’t attempt to wreck Kenseth. He bumped him a few times and attempted to pass, but nothing stuck. He was the bridesmaid yet again.
This is where the complaints roll in. Many fans claimed that there should’ve been a “rattle his cage” moment between the two at the end. To sum the rants up: “If Kahne wanted it and was mad at Kenseth, he should’ve wrecked him.” Once again, we are presented with a moment where NASCAR teaches us a life lesson.
Kahne put it simply after the race: “I think at the end of the day, I just don’t wreck people.” That is a personal code of conduct he has raced with for as long as I can remember. It’s something that has helped him gain respect in the garage and on the track. He shows the maturity of an older generation of drivers, and it is an admirable trait.
I can see where fans think he may have acted a bit passive, especially when he appeared to be quite angered at Kenseth and JGR. The disconnect between what a driver feels and a fan’s ability to grasp those emotions throbs strong and often. This is definitely one of the times where the fans simply don’t understand.
It isn’t a question of desire, it’s a question of morality. Kahne is harsh on himself, whether he loses a race by two-tenths or two seconds. He would rather take the blame than bash his team. Frankly, it was all in his hands, and he didn’t get the job done. He couldn’t find a way around Kenseth, so he didn’t win. Everyone knew that a wreck between Kahne and Kenseth would’ve resulted in neither of them winning. With the Hendrick car floating near the bottom of The Chase club, he raced smart.
What we can learn from this and apply to ourselves is that owning up to your mistakes is important. Also, we now know that many NASCAR fans wouldn’t make respectable drivers, and that’s okay.
Tonight lit something inside of many gawkers and drivers, that Bristol black magic coming around again. Yet, the lessons we learn from racing are more mystic than any carnage-filled short track.
Point Standings after Bristol
1. Jimmie Johnson (–)
2. Clint Bowyer (-18)
3. Carl Edwards (-53)
4. Kevin Harvick (-61)
5. Kyle Busch (-82)
6. Matt Kenseth (-85)
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-107)
8. Kasey Kahne (-120)
9. Greg Biffle (-123)
10. Joey Logano (-136)
11. Brad Keselowski (-140)
12. Kurt Busch (-142)