Bring back the Bristol mayhem

March, 23, 2009
BRISTOL, Tenn. -- I just watched the television highlights of Sunday's Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway. It took less than a minute. They showed Mark Martin leading the first lap, Joey Logano blowing a motor to force a green-white-checkered finish and Kyle Busch cruising to the victory.

It was an exciting day for Busch.

It was another Bristol snoozer for the rest of us.

I am starting to agree with the fans. It's time to go back to the configuration before the track was resurfaced two years ago. It's time to go back to the beating and banging -- and, yes, wrecks -- that made Bristol one of the most anticipated races of the season.

"Bulldoze it down and build it back the way it was," one reader said. "What a joke."

It's not that simple. The new car has something to do with the racing because drivers can't so easily spin out a competitor.

But the new surface has opened up several lanes that make the bump-and-wreck move unnecessary.

This looked like a race at California, minus a mile and a half of track. Busch led 378 of 502 laps. Jimmie Johnson led another 88. Sure, there was a lot of passing -- back in the field.

The most heated moment at a track where heated moments used to come seemingly on every other lap came when Juan Pablo Montoya spun out Jamie McMurray after McMurray got into him. NASCAR warned Montoya and that was that. The most heated exchange after the race came from Dale Earnhardt Jr. And it was directed at the media, not another driver.

"Well, to be honest with you, it's not that hard to stay positive until you get around the media," NASCAR's most popular driver said with a laugh after finishing 14th. "I mean, you guys have to take a little responsibility for being so hard on everybody, and some people are going to argue that you are just calling out to the reality of a situation.

"But we're trying to work hard and trying to do our job, and that's what we do every week. Somebody seems to think we still belong here, and so we keep showing up."

That's not quite the same as Ward Burton tossing his heel pads into the cockpit of Earnhardt's car after Earnhardt spun him out battling for 12th in 2002. Or Rusty Wallace slamming a water bottle against the head of Earnhardt's dad after the elder Earnhardt slammed him into the wall in 1995.

It's not the same as the "Intimidator" sending Terry Labonte into a spin on the final lap to capture the 1999 Bristol race.

Jeff Burton once asked, after I suggested a race at Bristol was boring, if wrecks and hot tempers made the race more exciting. My response: "Hell, yeah!" The sport needs mayhem a few times each season to break up the monotony of the 1.5-mile tracks.

It doesn't need a highlight clip like the one I just watched.

David Newton | email

ESPN Staff Writer



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