March 17, 2013 in Sports

NASCAR returns to the Bristol bullring

 

There’s an expectation from fans that a ticket to Bristol Motor Speedway will get them a seat to NASCAR’s version of the Roman Colosseum.

They got one of those throwback, rock ’em, sock ’em races last August, when changes to the track surface forced drivers to get aggressive again and caused tempers to flare. Now, a month into a new season, NASCAR could use another race like that.

Today’s race will be the fourth for the new Gen-6 car, and the first this season on a short track. It could be the spark NASCAR needs at a time everyone seems to be holding their breath.

Nobody knows what to expect at a track once beloved for its action-packed racing and drama it produced. But a reconfigured racing surface in 2007 altered Bristol into two racing grooves, sometimes three, and drivers could race side-by-side around the tight bullring for the first time. Without a need to forcefully use the front bumper to navigate through traffic, the drivers thoroughly enjoyed the new Bristol.

Fans hated it, and the track that boasted 55 consecutive sellouts suddenly had swaths of open seats.

Track owner Bruton Smith had seen enough last March and ordered grinding to the top groove in an effort to tighten up the track and recreate the old Bristol racing. He got some of that in August, and the drama, too: Tony Stewart angrily threw his helmet at Matt Kenseth after contact between the two knocked Stewart out of the race.

Race winner Denny Hamlin thinks it will be even better today.

“I think we’re going to see one of the best races we’ve seen in a long time here because the low line does have a lot of grip, and we know everyone is going to start making their way higher just to make their car work,” Hamlin said.

Busch holds off Larson at finish

Kyle Busch held off rookie Kyle Larson at the finish Saturday to win the Nationwide Series race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.

As they closed in on the checkered flag, Larson went high, then tried to squeeze his way past Busch. Larson’s car bounced off of both the wall and Busch’s car, but he was nipped at the finish line by Busch.

Annett back at track as spectator

Michael Annett was back at the track as a spectator, unable to drive his Richard Petty Motorsports car in the Nationwide Series race because of a fractured and dislocated sternum.

He was injured in a crash during last month’s season-opener at Daytona and spent a night in the hospital before returning home to North Carolina, where doctors discovered the severity of his injury. Emergency surgery followed and Annett is sidelined indefinitely.

Vettel wins pole for Australian GP

Reigning Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel took the pole position for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, in a race-day qualifying session today.

Vettel qualified in a time of 1 minute, 27.407 seconds around the Albert Park circuit, and was joined in an all-Red Bull front row by Mark Webber, who was four-tenths of a second back.


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