Wilson’s NASCAR Notes – Top Stories from Bristol Weekend
Miss anything that happened in NASCAR over the weekend? You don’t need to waste time scouring the ‘net and reading pages and pages worth of information: here are the biggest stories in NASCAR from the Irwin Tools Night Race weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway, and I won’t just tell you what happened – I’ll tell you what I think, too!
Kyle Busch Trifecta
The Story: Kyle Busch made NASCAR history at Bristol, winning the Camping World Truck, Nationwide and Sprint Cup races on the half-mile oval, making him the first driver to ever sweep all three NASCAR national touring series events in a single weekend.
Wilson’s Take: And he didn’t do it quietly, either – The Shrub made plenty of headlines on the way to his three historic checkered flags, feuding with Brad Keselowski (see below) as well as giving the crowd a little ribbing, for good measure. Easily lost amidst all of the drama, though, is the fact that Busch can flat-out drive, and his display of dominance at a track as tough as Bristol was nothing short of impressive. Like him or not, Kyle is one of the most talent drivers in the sport.
The Story: Brad Keselowski’s never-ending string of feuds shifted to an opponent who is no stranger to controversy, himself – Kyle Busch. Fighting for the lead in Friday night’s Nationwide race, Keselowski laid a bumper to the No.18 car when Busch tried to put the slide-job on him for the lead. Busch then returned the favor in decisive manner, spinning out the No.22 before driving away to the checkered flag. Busch took a few jabs at Keselowski in post-race interviews, and Keselowski stirred things up again before Sunday’s Cup race, calling Busch an “ass” on the P.A. system during driver introductions.
Wilson’s Take: I’ll separate my opinion into two parts – on the track and off.
The wreck itself was a perfect example of what typically happens at Bristol – two guys with great cars were racing hard, and it was inevitable on a track that small that they would tangle. The first contact was as much Busch’s fault as Keselowski’s – Kyle misjudged Brad’s run on the top-side of the track when he tried the slide move. If he had gotten roughed up by anyone other than Keselowski in that situation, Kyle probably would have gotten back in line and tried the pass again, but there is no question that Brad’s reputation for running into drivers prompted the quick retaliation from the No.18 car. I’m not saying it was right or wrong, all I am saying is – when you tangle with too many people like Keselowski has, you end up not getting the benefit of doubt anymore. That is what happened at Bristol.
As for the verbal sparring – a lot of people were making a big deal about the comments, especially Keselowski’s colorful language prior to the Cup race, but I think it is all in fun – a little bit of controversy gets the fans railed up, keeps the drivers on their toes – and everyone gets something to talk about.
Vickers Back in 2011
The Story: Brian Vickers held a press conference before Saturday’s Cup race at Bristol to announce that his doctors have cleared him to begin racing again in 2011. He also made a more shocking revelation – that he had open-heart surgery in the past few months to fix a congenital defect that was contributing to the blood clot issues that sidelined him in the first place.
Wilson’s Take: While it was a surprise to hear about the surgery, the good news is that it was successful, Brian feels good, and as long as he is cleared by NASCAR doctors when he goes off his blood thinners in January, Vickers should be all set to hop back in the No.83 car.
The real question here is what will happen with the rest of Red Bull Racing – with Vickers back in the No.83 and Kasey Kahne signed for the 2011 season, it appears that there will be no room at the inn for Scott Speed. Red Bull could conceivably run a third car, but the chances of that are slim, at best. It is much more likely that Vickers and Kahne run the full cup schedule, while Speed takes a back seat, possibly running in the Truck or Nationwide series while his future at Red Bull is evaluated. If Speed didn’t have a pre-existing personal services contract with Red Bull, I would say he was done with the team, but I think they will give him another chance to prove himself, even though it may not be at the Cup level.
Ambrose to Petty Motorsports
The Story: Richard Petty Motorsports made it official – Marcos Ambrose signed a two-year contract to drive for the organization. He’ll be behind the wheel of the No.9 car that Kasey Kahne is leaving, with Stanley Tools as his primary sponsor. At this point, RPM is looking at a two-car operation with Ambrose and A.J. Allmendinger, although they are not ruling out adding a third team for 2011.
Wilson’s Take: Not only was this the obvious choice for both sides to make, it was the right choice, as well. Ambrose was ready to move on to better equipment, and should get a slight upgrade with RPM chasses and Roush-Fenway motors. RPM needed someone marketable to replace Kahne, and Ambrose was the most sponsor-friendly and fan-friendly driver available. Everybody wins, and it should help Ambrose finally get to victory lane in the Cup series.
Harvick gets a new Sponsor
The Story: Richard Childress Racing announced at their shop this week that Budweiser would sponsor Kevin Harvick and the No.29 car starting in 2011.
Wilson’s Take: Not much to say, here – Harvick certainly fits the profile a little better than Kahne, who still doesn’t look old enough to drink beer.
2011 NASCAR Schedule Announced
The Story: NASCAR officially released their 2011 schedule, and it was essentially what we have been hearing over the past few weeks – Atlanta and California both lose a race, Kansas gets a second date and Kentucky gets added to the schedule. A few dates were shuffled, and Chicagoland will now kick off the Chase.
Wilson’s Take: The changes are not major, and like I have said before – we lose one medium-banked intermediate track in California, and gain two with Kansas and Kentucky. It remains to be seen how that will all work out as far as racing is concerned, but more tickets will be sold, and that is what all of the schedule changes are about. The distribution of track styles in the Chase remains the same, so there shouldn’t be any real differences in strategy, despite the fact that Chicagoland has been added to the championship run. Good racing is good racing, no matter where the flag flies, so to me it doesn’t matter if they run in at Kentucky, California or an old parking lot – as long as the racing is good.