(TNS) Before we dive in, can we all agree on this one thing ...
Let’s never put dirt on Bristol Motor Speedway again. Ever.
“I love this place,” said Kyle Larson, who won Saturday’s thriller in Tennessee. “This is by far my favorite track. This is why. You guys are amazing, loud. We feel the energy while we’re out there racing. Thanks, everyone, for spending your hard-earned money to come watch us putting on a show.”
Well, folks got their money’s worth ... and then some!
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Chase Elliott vs. Kevin Harvick. Who ya got?
OK, let’s talk about it.
Chase Elliott vs. Kevin Harvick! What a show, no matter whose side you’re on.
Elliott was leading Harvick with the laps winding down when he got bottled up with lap traffic, allowing Harvick to made it three-wide and eventually pinching Elliott’s right-side tires against the wall.
Clyde’s Goodyear’s popped, he lost three laps on pit road, and then returned to the track right behind Harvick (funny how that worked out).
Naturally, Chase didn’t make the cleanest of passes, and then, of course, made it difficult for Harvick to get back around him the rest of the way.
And by difficult, I mean ... well, let’s ask Kevin!
“It was kind of a chicken-shi** move,” Harvick said. “We’re racing for the frickin’ win at Bristol. We’re three-wide in the middle and he throws a temper-tantrum, like I was just trying to get the lead and race him hard.”
Alright, Chase ... your turn.
“It’s something he does all the time. He runs into your left side constantly at other tracks,” Elliott said. “He did it to me at Darlington a few weeks ago because he was tired of racing with me. At some point, you’ve got to draw the line. I don’t care who he is or how long he’s been doing it.”
Will Harvick wreck Elliott? Circle the Charlotte Roval
So, where do we go from here?
For starters, this isn’t over. It wasn’t over in the pits when the two nearly threw punches (who ya got? I think Harvick, right?), it wasn’t over 15 minutes later when they went into Elliott’s hauler, and it won’t be over when they get to Vegas this weekend.
Don’t take my word for it, though.
“I told him I wanted to rip his freaking head off,” Harvick said after the race. “It’s all Chase’s way or it’s no way, and if he doesn’t get his way, then he throws a fit.”
Both drivers easily advanced to the Round of 12, but, because of playoff points, Chase will start the round with a decent cushion (+8). Harvick, meanwhile, goes to Vegas 12 points below the cut-line.
Something tells me to circle that elimination race on the Roval. Chase is obviously really good there, and road-racing usually leads to hurt feelings. Seems like as good a spot as any to drop the gloves.
Bristol is back. Stop covering it with dirt!
Before going to Vegas, let’s stick with Bristol for just one more minute.
I’ll say it again ... please stop covering it with dirt. Yes, I know the schedule is already set for next year and we’re getting an Easter night race on the Bristol dirt. And yes, that will probably be an entertaining event.
But if Saturday’s race showed us anything, it’s that the old Bristol is back. If you wanna pass someone, you basically have to move them. That racing leads to hurt feelings, tough decisions, and closed-door conversations.
What more do you want?
NASCAR playoff predictions
OK, off to Sin City we go!
The Round of 12 starts Sunday night at Las Vegas before heading to Talladega and then the Charlotte Roval. Kyle Larson (surprise!) won this race back in March and will certainly be the favorite here, but something tells me one of the Joe Gibbs boys will have something to say about that.
Speaking of JGR and Hendrick Motorsports, both teams pushed all four drivers through to this round. Who had Christopher Bell advancing this far when the year started?
As for what lies ahead, let’s go with the following drivers to advance to the Round of 8: Larson, Elliott, William Byron, Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Blaney and Harvick.
Next four out: Alex Bowman, Bell, and Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano.