What a finish at Bristol. This would be a perfect race to end the season; what better way to create headlines and attract new fans than showcasing the chaos that comes with short track racing, with pressure-packed excitement to win a Championship. Early on, it looked like Denny Hamlin would have a great chance to get this win, but a cut tire derailed those chances as it did for several contenders throughout the race. Most of the talk after the race was about Chase Elliott and Kevin Harvick, and I have seen several angles from the incident that cut Chases’ tire down, and I don’t see how Chase can go back and look at that replay and still think there was anything intentional.
* BRISTOL, TENNESSEE – SEPTEMBER 18: Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #19 Bass Pro Shops/SherryStrong.org Toyota, and Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota, lead the field on a pace lap prior to the NASCAR Cup Series Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on September 18, 2021 in Bristol, Tennessee
When Harvick got under Chase on the straightaway, he could have pinned him behind the lap car and just moved on, but he gave him just enough room so that Chase could get around the slow car and stay to the outside of him. When Harvick went into that turn, he had to pinch the car hard to keep on the bottom, and you could tell the car didn’t stick, and he washed up into Chase, resulting in the cut-down tire. When you look back at that incident and the laps leading up to that event, Harvick was more patient than most drivers would have been in passing Chase Elliott. He could have moved him several times but didn’t. In the aftermath, for Chase to go out and race the leader the way he did from two laps down paints a dire picture of himself. The professional thing to do would be to finish the race, have a chance to view the replay, and then decide if Harvick drove him dirty.
* BRISTOL, TENNESSEE – SEPTEMBER 18: Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #19 Bass Pro Shops/SherryStrong.org Toyota, and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Subway Delivery Ford, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on September 18, 2021 in Bristol, Tennessee.
At this point, the damage is done; he took away would have been Harvick’s first win of the season, and now when he goes back and watches the replay, I think Chase will see that it wasn’t anything Harvick did maliciously, that it was just short track racing. You can take back your anger, but you can’t give Harvick the win that he likely would have earned. I don’t expect NASCAR to dock points off of Chase Elliott’s team or fine the driver, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he gets put on probation for a few races. This type of behavior is expected on short tracks due to the difficulty to pass on the track and the mental strain that happens during the race. But I don’t think we should set a precedent that shows that if you change the outcome of a race while you are laps down and not in contention, nothing will happen to you.
* BRISTOL, TENNESSEE – SEPTEMBER 18: Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 Hooters Chevrolet, (L) and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Subway Delivery Ford, have a heated conversation after an incident late in the NASCAR Cup Series Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on September 18, 2021 in Bristol, Tennessee
Enough of that; let’s talk about the actual race winner, Kyle Larson. He had a strong car and was in contention all night and capitalized on the hardship of Kevin Harvick. It is his sixth win of the season and his first win at Bristol. Next week we go to Las Vegas, another track that the Hendrick bunch should have marginal success.
I look forward to a great race that won’t end with two grown men pointing at each other on pit road while one is wearing a helmet.