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NASCAR

Jeff Gordon brought back a lot of memories with his retro rainbow paint scheme. (Photo: Getty Images)

There are many Saturday night races across the NASCAR world these days. But the August trip to Bristol Motor Speedway under the lights remains the most special.

Back before the proliferation of lighted facilities, Bristol’s summer night race was the only game in town. At one time it was considered the toughest ticket in all of NASCAR and as soon as parent company Speedway Motorsports Inc. could build more seats they were filled – to the tune of about 160,000.

Attendance dipped in recent years but it’s surging again and a large crowd packed the Tennessee short track on Saturday night for the 2015 edition.

The reason for Bristol’s popularity is easy – short track racing. Close quarters competition, fans right on top of the action, contact and high emotions make up the recipe for success.

NASCAR continues to tinker with aerodynamic rules packages hoping to create better competition on intermediate tracks. No such modifications are needed at places like Bristol, Martinsville or Richmond.

Short track racing continues to capture the interest of fans and there’s no better example than when the calendar rolls around to Bristol every summer.

  • Saturday night’s race won’t find itself among the most memorable Bristol night races in history but it had its moments. The late duel between Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick provided some drama and the night was filled with frustration for several top drivers including Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Jeff Gordon. But with only a handful of races left in the regular season and drivers desperately hanging on to Chase berths, Bristol has turned into as much about playing defense as anything. Risk versus reward means playing it safe and Saturday night’s race had that kind of feel to it.
  • Jeff Gordon brought back a lot of memories with his retro rainbow paint scheme and late in the race it appeared his final appearance at Bristol might end in Victory Lane. However, a second loose wheel of the night sent Gordon to pit road and ultimately a 20th-place finish. That dropped him to 15th in the Chase standings and with only a pair of races left to decide the playoff field there’s has to be some nervousness around the ’24’ camp.
  • The news of Michael Waltrip Racing’s demise and co-owner Rob Kauffman moving into an ownership role with Chip Ganassi Racing was the talk of the Bristol weekend. Many believe Kaufmann will be the catalyst for NASCAR to adopt some kind of franchise or medallion system for teams in the future, but there are several details and challenges to institute such a plan. In the short term there is one less team in the Cup garage next year and Bowyer finds himself a lucrative free agent. However, where he’ll land and if there will be a quality ride available in 2016 and beyond still remains to be seen.
  • It was good to see future NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Bruton Smith at Bristol this weekend. The Speedway Motorsports Inc. executive chairman revealed he’s been battling non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma this season. The 88-year-old Smith was treated with surgery and didn’t need chemotherapy or radiation. He received the highest percentage of votes in last May’s Hall of Fame voting and will inducted next January.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.

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