Bristol is groovy, but fans want excitement

Posted: August 30, 2007

The "B" in Bristol standing for boring? Until Saturday night's race, no racing fans would have ever harbored such a subversive thought.

Bristol has always provided some NASCAR's most entertaining races. Put 43 hurrying stock cars on Bristol's .533-mile track and you usually have tight racing and frequent contact.

A NASCAR report proudly announced that passes during the Sharpie 500 more than doubled over the spring race at the track. There's only one problem with that stat: Most of the passing was behind the leaders. That's not why 160,000 fans journey to the hills of eastern Tennessee: They want to see passing for the lead and a few fender benders.

We're not pleading for demolition-derby type racing at Bristol's boxing ring-sized track. But fans want to see some battle scars on the race cars, some dents and scrapes.

The new concrete surface created additional racing grooves, which is good. What isn't good is Kasey Kahne's dominating the middle of the race, leading 265 consecutive laps, and the winner, Carl Edwards, pacing the final 129 laps. Where were the challenges for the lead?

Since the race featured the Cars of Tomorrow, maybe the drivers were more cautious.

Maybe we need to give Bristol a few more races before really getting our overalls twisted. Edwards, for one, urges patience.

"I think, in the big picture, this is a transition race," Edwards said.

"[The track] looks the same, but it sure isn't the same, so you've got a new racetrack and new cars."

No. 900 for Rudd

Ricky Rudd's first Cup series start was in March 1975 at Rockingham, N.C., when he was 18. Rudd finished 11th in the Carolina 500 and collected $2,000.

On Sunday, at California Speedway, Rudd is scheduled to make his 900th start. Only Richard Petty (1,185) has started more Cup races than Rudd. The Virginian's career earnings top $40 million.

One highlight among Rudd's 23 career Cup wins (no championships) is the 1997 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis. His last Cup win was at Sonoma, Calif., in 2002.

Rudd, 51, announced this month that this will be his final full-time racing season.

"To run this schedule week in and week out [is] more demanding than it used to be," he said. "I think it's really a young guy's sport."

Rudd holds the NASCAR record for most consecutive races (788) from 1981 through 2005. He sat out the '06 season.

Rudd always will be remembered for taping his swollen eyelids open following a frightening crash at Daytona during a preliminary race in 1984. He saw well enough to finish seventh in the Daytona 500.

Recalling the taping, Rudd said that while his crew was changing a spark plug, he noticed some duct tape on the toolbox.

"I just took all the extra skin and taped it to my eyelid and taped it to my forehead," he said. "It helped out when I went in the turns, because the G-forces had been pulling the skin down over my eyes. I never even told my crew that I couldn't see in the turns. I just wanted to race so badly."

Those were the days ...

Juan more from F1

First, Juan. Now, Jacques.

The internationalization of NASCAR continues, with Jacques Villeneuve joining Bill Davis Racing.

Villeneuve, the 1997 Formula One champion, will drive a Toyota in the season's final seven Craftsman Truck Series races (first race: Las Vegas on Sept. 27). He began getting acclimated Monday and Tuesday by testing a Tundra at Chicago.

Juan Pablo Montoya, another former F1 racer, is the leading rookie in the Nextel Cup series (18th in points.)

Villeneuve, the 1995 Indianapolis 500 winner, said on a Tuesday conference call that he signed on with Davis Racing because its drivers are successful in the truck series. Mike Skinner leads the points standings, and Johnny Benson is sixth.

When Villeneuve moves up to Cup racing, the Canadian will resume his rivalry with Montoya. They didn't always take afternoon tea together.

"We had a hard time [in F1] early in our careers, then we mellowed," Villeneuve said.

When Montoya's aggressive racing style was mentioned, Villeneuve said: "He was like that in Formula One, extremely aggressive and got on people's nerves. I guess he kept the same personality going into NASCAR. Once he settles in, it will be all right."

Dave Blaney and Jeremy Mayfield are Davis' Cup drivers.

Kahne at Dover

Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 9 Dodge, will be at Dover (Del.) International Speedway from 2 to 3 p.m. Wednesday, signing autographs for fans who purchase tickets to the Sept. 23 Dodge Dealers 400.

THIS WEEK'S RACE

Sharp Aquos 500

California Speedway

Fontana, Calif.

When: Sunday, 8 p.m.

TV/Radio: ESPN/WXTU (92.5-FM), WNPV (1440-AM)

Race course: 2-mile oval

Race distance: 250 laps

Last year's race winner: Kasey Kahne

Last year's pole winner: Kurt Busch, 184.540 mph

Track qualifying record: Kyle Busch, 188.425 mph (February 2005)

Track facts: The race is due to start at 5 p.m. Pacific time, in 100-degree heat ... Matt Kenseth won the February race, Jeff Gordon was second, and Jimmie Johnson was third. Kenseth also won the February 2006 race at the track and has four Busch series W's at the track, including the February race ... Jeff Gordon's three wins are the most of any driver at California ... Denny Hamlin's DNF at Bristol ended his 9-week grip on second place in the Cup Series standings. Hamlin has only two DNFs in 67 Cup starts ... Johnson visited the San Diego area this week for his induction into the Granite Hills High Hall of Fame.

Wins: Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, 4 each; Tony Stewart, 3; Carl Edwards and Kurt Busch, 2 each; Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Burton, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Casey Mears, Juan Pablo Montoya, Jamie McMurray, 1 each.

NEXTEL CUP CHASE

Top 12 drivers following the Sept. 8 race at Richmond, Va., qualify for the Chase for the Nextel Cup championship.

1. Jeff Gordon (1 last week) 3582-

2. Tony Stewart (4) 3233 -349

3. Denny Hamlin (2) 3229 -353

4. Matt Kenseth (3) 3163 -419

5. Carl Edwards (5) 3160 -422

6. Jimmie Johnson (6) 3059 -523

7. Jeff Burton (7) 3054 -528

8. Kyle Busch (8) 3024 -558

9. Clint Bowyer (9) 2944 -638

10. Kevin Harvick (10) 2888 -694

11. Martin Truex Jr. (11) 2887 -695

12. Kurt Busch (12) 2879 -703

13. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (13) 2721 -861

14. Ryan Newman (14) 2704 -878

15. Greg Biffle (15) 2562 -1020

16. Casey Mears (16) 2458 -1124

17. Bobby Labonte (18) 2406 -1176

18. Juan Montoya (19) 2375 -1207

19. Jamie McMurray (17) 2371 -1211

20. J.J. Yeley (21) 2296 -1286

SCHEDULE

Sept. 8: Chevy Rock & Roll 400, Richmond, Va.

Sept. 16: Sylvania 300, Loudon, N.H.

Sept. 23: Dover 400, Dover, Del.

Sept. 30: Kansas 400, Kansas City, Kan.

Oct. 7: UAW-Ford 500, Talladega, Ala.

Oct. 13: Bank of America 500, Concord, N.C.

Oct. 21: Subway 500, Martinsville, Va.

Oct. 28: Georgia 500, Hampton, Ga.

Nov. 4: Dickies 500, Fort Worth, Texas

Nov. 11: Checker Auto Parts 500, Avondale, Az.

Nov. 18: Ford 400, Homestead, Fla.

End Season

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