BRISTOL -- Defending NASCAR champion Brad Keselowski doesn’t think the old Bristol is back, but he believes the newest version is actually better.
The combination of a track-grinding project ordered by Bristol Motor Speedway and NASCAR’s new Gen-6 race cars resulted in a best of both worlds scenario at Sunday’s Food City 500.
There was beating and banging on which Bristol’s reputation was built, but side-by-side racing which the track had after a resurfacing project in 2007.
“The old Bristol can’t ever be back,” Keselowski said. “It’s not 1995 through 1999. That was a different era with a different car. Quite honestly, I think this one is better.
“You don’t have the Terry Labonte-Dale Earnhardt battles for the win. But, I think it’s better. I think the races are better in retrospect than what we’ve seen in the past. You have the ability to run into each other, but you also have the ability to run different lanes and work lapped traffic.”
There was still some one-groove racing since the high line was obviously the fastest way around the .533-mile oval. Kyle Busch, who was Sunday’s runner-up, said that’s something that often happens on the smaller circuits.
“You hope when you come to a short track, you want to see a great race,” Busch said. “You get a little of the accordion effect, but that’s what you get sometimes on short tracks all around the country.”
For those who love the conflict, there was plenty of that among former teammates Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin. After Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota spun out Logano’s No. 22 Ford on lap 349, the two made contact again 112 laps later. Logano went to Hamlin’s car after the race, resulting in Logano being shoved by Hamlin’s crew and the drivers placing the blame on each other.
“That’s a freaking genius behind the wheel of the 11 car -- probably the worst teammate I’ve ever had, so I learned that now,” Logano said. “He decided to run in the back of me, so whatever. I have a scorecard and I’m not putting up with that. What goes around comes around. He ran down his right-front tire, so he deserves it.”
Hamlin was unapologetic and saw the entire episode from a different perspective.
“You have to control your car and he slid up into me,” Hamlin said.“Really, he would have been in the garage with no radiator in it if I had not checked up twice. I meant to run into him. I didn’t mean to spin him out. We finished bad and he finished bad, so we’re even.”
There were other accidents caused by drivers pushing their cars to the limits and crews getting too aggressive to gain track position.
On lap 390, race leader Jeff Gordon blew a right front tire running him into the turn 4 wall and right into the path of second-place Matt Kenseth. The incident took out both drivers and resulted in a 34th-place finish for Gordon and a 35th-place finish for Kenseth.
“The right fronts never blow out when you are up against the wall,” Gordon lamented. “I dove down to the bottom to pass the No. 32 car, as soon as I got into the banking I felt the right front go. I really hate that we collected Matt Kenseth in that.”
The same can’t be said for all of the fans, who certainly were witness to an eventful 500 laps. There were double the number of caution periods for Sunday’s race compared to last year’s Food City 500.
It wasn’t just exciting on Sunday.
All the weekend’s races provided plenty of action. It included Kyle Busch pinching rookie Kyle Larson up against the wall to win Saturday’s Nationwide Series race, and the K&N Pro Series race which had seven cautions in just 125 laps.
While the old Bristol isn’t back, Keselowski may have a point that this version is even better.