5 Questions After ... Jeff Byrd 500 presented by Food City

Credit: Jeff Zelvansky/Getty Images
Bristol is about as close to a toilet-shaped racetrack that you can get.

I’m sorry, that was a really random way to start this column. Let me try again.

Bristol is often compared to a Roman coliseum, but there were no togas seen at this weekend’s races!

Yeah that was no good either.

If Bristol is the world’s fastest half-mile, they’ve never seen me drive!

Alright, this isn’t working. Let’s just get to the questions …

How significant was the (lack of) attendance? … NASCAR estimated Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series race to have a crowd of around 120,000 while Saturday’s Nationwide Series was estimated at 80,000.

Let’s be honest, both attendance estimates would be fantastic crowds at quite a few racetracks. In fact, only 10 of the 23 racetracks on the Sprint Cup Series circuit boast a grandstand capacity of 100,000+, meaning there are several racetracks out there that would have loved to have had Bristol’s “bad” attendance. Just keeping things in perspective, folks!

Was the racing good or bad? … Personally, I thought the racing was fine. We had a three-car battle for the lead in the closing moments of the race, even though Kyle Busch was able to pull away enough to guarantee himself the win. However, we had several cars capable of winning, underdogs at the front, and some side-by-side racing. Yes, folks, there was side-by-side racing, deal with it!

Personally, I think some of the bitterness about the races comes from the fact that we didn’t really have anyone upset with each other. Bristol is renowned for its tendency to create career-long rivalries between drivers that begin on the final lap of the race. Really, there wasn’t a lot of bitterness between any drivers at all. Everyone was surprisingly happy-go-lucky — though Carl Edwards was a bit frustrated with finishing second to Busch again. Who wouldn’t be?!

Throw in the fact that Busch, definitely not one of the more popular drivers out there, won his fifth straight race at Bristol and I would imagine that would make loads of people angry about the race.

Is Paul Menard for real? … I feel like a broken record talking about him all the time, but it’s just shocking to me! Even only four weeks in, I keep expecting to see Menard heading to the garage with bent-up sheet metal before the race even hits halfway. His Richard Childress Racing teammates have seen more of that than he has!

In fact Menard, who is the newest driver at RCR after moving over from Richard Petty Motorsports in the off-season, is currently beating his teammates in the current point standings: Kevin Harvick (15th), Clint Bowyer (24th), and Jeff Burton (29th).

Menard even led 35 laps in the race, and this was no fluke. He actually chased down Carl Edwards at the beginning of the race and held onto the lead for several laps. Martin Truex Jr. did the same thing, taking the lead for 63 laps. He finished 17th. Where did Menard finish? 5th.

Racing on daddy’s money? Maybe. But he’s making it work.

Is Denny Hamlin enduring the “Jimmie Johnson curse”? … Before I explain myself, please don’t tell me it’s too early in the season to ask this question. It isn’t.

Hamlin hasn’t been terrible so far in 2011, and is off to a better start than he was in 2010. However, it’s worth keeping an eye on the Virginia native after finishing second to Jimmie Johnson last season. For those that don’t know — and I hope that you are new to NASCAR if you don’t — Johnson has won the last five championships. Of all the drivers to finish second to Johnson, Matt Kenseth is the only one that did not go winless the next season.

Hamlin has more than enough of the season left to change that trend, and so far he’s been quiet but not terrible. In a couple of weeks, we’ll be heading to Martinsville Speedway where Hamlin has four victories and where he grabbed his first victory of the season in 2010. Don’t count him out yet but, like I said, keep an eye on him!

How can Kyle Busch be stopped at Bristol? … Busch has won the last five races at Bristol, across all three of NASCAR’s national series! Pretty incredible, right?

Oh I’m sorry, you don’t care? You’re sick of Kyle Busch dominating Bristol?

Bonus questions: Doesn’t multi-groove racing just suck (insert sarcasm)?? … Did anyone catch a glimpse of the “super moon” on Saturday night? … Isn’t Saturday night racing usually more fun anyway?
5 Questions After ... Jeff Byrd 500 presented by Food City 5 Questions After ... Jeff Byrd 500 presented by Food City Reviewed by Summer Dreyer on Tuesday, March 22, 2011 Rating: 5