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World's fastest half mile returns to old form, welcoming excitement, drama

By Thomas Knisley
On March 20, 2013

Call it Bristol if you want. View it as just good old-fashioned 'boys will be boys'. However you choose to classify it,  the high-banked, short track which earned the moniker Worlds Fastest Half Mile was on display last weekend and seemed like the track it used to be.
Sunday's Food City 500 marked the second Sprint Cup race since the track underwent changes to the driving surface before last August. The grinding down of the upper groove was intended to return the speedway to its former bump-and-run style of racing that made Bristol one of the most popular tracks among NASCAR fans by making the usable surface area of the track smaller. Ironically enough, the top groove turned out to be the place to run after the changes. The track change along with the new Generation 6 car has brought back some fire to the World's Fastest Half-Mile.
Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin's two-week feud finally boiled over at Bristol, like so many feuds before them. Hamlin claimed he did not intend to wreck Logano, which I don't buy for a second, apparently neither did Logano. Logano retaliated by leaning in the window net of Hamlin's car before being shoved by one of Hamlin's crew members.  The ensuing ruckus was reminiscent of Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth after the 2006 Food City 500.
Whether fans like the track or not, Bristol offers some of the most dramatic action, both on and off the track, and that's what sets it apart from the other tracks on the circuit. It offers unscripted raw emotions that epitomize NASCAR and the competitive spirit of sports in general.
As for the Gen 6 car itself, the action matched and eclipsed the action put on by the old Gen 5 cars last fall, even without Tony Stewart's Strasburg-caliber helmet toss. Once again, the car proved wrong the nay-sayers who were questioning the car's ability to pass.
Some fans don't like the fact that the top groove is now the place to pass, but what difference does it make? The purpose of the track modification was to get rid of the multi-lane passing which allowed cars to run side-by-side, sometimes three wide. While it wasn't intended to be the ideal passing lane following its grinding down, the upper-groove still provides an optimal line of racing, and it works well.
The Gen 6 cars are great. Bristol is bad and fast. The drivers are mad. Ah, it's good to be back.


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