After a few years of falling ticket sales and rather tepid racing, Bristol Motor Speedway tinkered with the track surface hoping to bring the magic back to what was once the toughest ticket in NASCAR. For several years the annual night race at BMS was THE one event that every NASCAR fan considered the holy grail. A must-see, bucket list, type of spectacle.
The jury is still out as to whether or not changing the banking on the track led to 2012's best oval race last Saturday night. Whatever the cause, we witnessed 13 caution flags, 22 lead changes, and tight racing throughout the night. The fans also returned, as they believed BMS owner, Bruton Smith, was going to put on a good show. They were well rewarded for their faith, with a great show.
Denny Hamlin had a strong Toyota throughout the night, and he pulled away to win by a little over one second over runner-up, Jimmie Johnson. Hamlin's JGR teammate, Joey Logano, led the most laps and came home 8th after winning the Nationwide race on Friday.
In addition to Johnson, his HMS teammates, Jeff Gordon (3), Kasey Kahne (9), and Dale Earnhardt Jr (12) had decent runs. Brian Vickers (4), Clint Bowyer (7), and Martin Truex Jr (11) repped MWR well. Marcos Ambrose had a nice 5th place finish.
Where to begin? The 'old' Bristol was on display several times, as drivers ran out of patience, room, and luck all night long. Tony Stewart dotted the exclamation point when he won the gold medal for two-handed, helmet throwing. He bounced his headgear off the grille of Matt Kenseth's car after their failed attempt at synchronized spinning.
Danica Patrick somehow was running 19th, on the lead lap, when Regan Smith turned her car head-on into the inside retaining wall with less than 100 laps left. She still may not have a clue as to proper NASCAR etiquette, but she deserved a better finish than what she got.
I'm not a big fan of NASCAR's policy concerning rained out qualifying. In event of qualifying being cancelled the field is determined by practice speeds. Different teams have different agendas during practice. Some are checking fuel mileage. Some are checking tires. Not all of them are striving to put up the fastest speed of the session.