Breaking loose at Bristol!

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 27, 2005

Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.

To many racers and race fans, those words bring about a certain level of excitement, anticipation, and fear all at the same time. This is my favorite race of the year. The combination of 43 of the best racers in the world, a half-mile track with 36-degree banking, and 165,000 fans produces an awesome atmosphere and an awesome show.

Did you realize that at 36 degrees, the corners at Bristol are over five stories tall? Talk about racing in a fishbowl.

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Bristol is also a place to expect the unexpected. It is not uncommon to see the race winner come into victory lane with a car beat up almost beyond recognition.

There are however a few givens: there will be wrecks, some drivers will lose their tempers, and a driver right in the middle of the chase will finish poorly. With only three races remaining before the field is set for the chase, you will see controlled aggressiveness among the drivers. Only 137 points separate Ryan Newman in eighth position and Elliot Sadler in 13th, so there will be some drivers willing to take a chance to earn a good finish and move up in the standings. Just hold on and enjoy the show.

Kevin Harvick won the spring race here and Dale Earnhardt, Jr won this race last year. Rusty Wallace is the leader among active drivers with nine career wins at Bristol. Rusty has been close all season and sits in fourth place in the points. Wouldn’t it be a great story for Rusty to win at a track where he has had so much success in his final season?

It would be a great story, but Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is going to victory lane this week. Junior has a huge mountain to climb to make the chase and he knows it. The only thing that remains for the season is to win races and I think Junior and the Bud team pull off the win tonight.

The big news off the track this week is the official sponsorship announcement of Hall of Fame Racing. This team is a partnership between Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach, both former quarterbacks of the Dallas Cowboys. Both made their intentions known a couple of years ago, but was without a driver or a sponsor until last week. They are still without a driver, but Texas Instruments will sponsor the car. Hall of Fame racing intends to enter a car full time on the cup series next year with assistance from Joe Gibbs Racing. This announcement adds another twist to the already silliest of all silly seasons. This team should be able to attract a name driver. Sterling Marlin and Ward Burton are the early names that have been mentioned for this ride.

Look for Scott Riggs to complete the driver lineup for Ray Evernham. Valvoline is coming on board to sponsor the no. 10 Dodge for Evernham next year and Riggs will sign on to drive the car.

Race coverage begins at 7 p.m. and the excitement starts at 7:40, all on TNT. Get all your chores done today and then sit back and enjoy the fun.

Jeff Findley is the publisher of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald in Ahoskie, N.C. His column regularly appears in newspapers throughout the southeast. He can be reached by e-mail at jeff.