Bristol

Bristol is a track that the NAPA team should have no problems when it comes to being competitive. When I unloaded my car on Friday afternoon, it was off. It took us all the way until the race started to finally feel like we had our arms around it. When the race started, we started 42nd and made it all the way to 26th. We thought we were going to be competitive all night long. Unfortunately, it got away from us when we got wrecked.

A lot of people have been asking about what happened between me and Casey Mears. To be honest, I did not expect Casey to take a right on the front straightaway, which wasn’t too far off from what happened at Richmond a few months ago. I thought he would have learned from past history and I thought I made it clear not to do that again. We saw a lot of racing side by side all night at Bristol. People tried to crowd up and get into line and you just can’t do it. We were all the way to the start-finish line when Casey decided to take a right to get ready for the corner. If I would have known what he was getting ready to do, I would have tried to let off. I don’t want to wreck and I got wrecked. I had no idea. I just thought we were going into the corner like normal. Unfortunately, he made a right and caused a big wreck. The wreck was just part of racing at Bristol. I am not mad at Casey. I really appreciated what I saw from the guys who were forced to climb out of their wrecked race cars. Jeff Burton is the perfect example. A couple of cars got together in front of him. He slowed down to miss them. Another car hit Burton and wrecked him. I mean, Jeff Burton did absolutely nothing wrong and ended up finishing 42nd. He had a terrible night. When he got out of the car, he said it was just racing at Bristol. Kasey Kahne said the same thing. When I got home, I studied the video and I should have gotten out of there quicker. I slowed down because they were wrecking all around me. Drivers always second guess what they should do. We try and figure out how to do it better. It probably would have been smarter to just run wide open through there. Heck, I had to slow down to miss those guys as they started to get together.

Racing at Bristol is just a lot of fun. The difference in the track now is you can actually race on it. You used to just have to hit somebody and then go on. Hitting someone is still an option, but there is also a way to find another groove so you can pass a guy. If you looked at Happy Hour practice times, the fastest guy on his average lap ran a 16.20 (seconds). The 35th-place guy ran a 16.36 (seconds). That’s 35 cars that are a tenth and a half off each other. So when you go to pass a guy, if you are a tenth better than him, you have your work cut out. That’s what happens at Bristol. You have to figure out a way to pass and then race him to get the position.

The race to the finish and the antics after the race made for really good TV. Carl lurked right there with Kyle Busch all night long. When he got the chance to jump on Kyle, he took it. I don’t see anything wrong with what Carl did to Kyle when it came to the little bump and run. People move each other around a little bit. That’s acceptable. When a driver is the aggressor, and he goes to hit a guy ahead of him, you better be ready to get out of town real quick in order to keep from being hit back. I think Carl was real fortunate that Denny Hamlin was right there. Denny tried to get the spot away from his teammate so he could get back up to second. It chopped Kyle’s line down and allowed Carl to get three or four car lengths away. That’s the break Carl needed to go off and win the race. 

As for this coming weekend, the car we are taking to Fontana is the same car we had at Michigan two weeks ago. When that race ended, our car was right. Toyota sends out a race recap and they take every lap in the race and split it into quarters. In the fourth quarter at MIS, we had the third-fastest car during that sequence of over 70 laps. Our car was one of the best out there. We know what we did to tune up to that point, so we are looking to unload fast at the Auto Club Speedway. So enjoy the race and most importantly, enjoy your Labor Day weekend!

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