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Dustin Off The Next Race: Food City 500

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Finally a week where we don’t have to discuss qualifying, or the games being played that suddenly has become qualifying, and instead an off-track news story that honestly has gotten everyone feeling like they are almost 20 years younger.

After a successful driving career that concluded in 2000, and a majorly successful career in the broadcast booth, Darrell Waltrip has decided it’s time to be home, be a husband, father, and a grandfather.  The “boogity boogity boogity” line will have one final call when June arrives, but it was the absolute perfect place to make the announcement of a second retirement for the Hall of Fame driver.  Let’s be honest, Bristol is still D.W’s yard, and he’s always the big dog.  Sure, he’s got the most wins here of any driver, active or retired, but to say he won seven in a row at this place is something no one will duplicate.  In this era, it’s impossible, because the talent level is so high across the board.

It just seems fitting that Bristol is the place where Waltrip announces he’s ready to enjoy the sport in a different way.  Certainly won’t be the same, but in a sense, it’s a changing of the guard, and maybe the right way to end his career.

Keep in mind, 19 years ago, a play-by-play analyst, crew chief, and driver stepped into the booth for the first time together at Daytona, not knowing what to expect.  On that afternoon, Waltrip got to see his baby brother get the biggest win of his life.  But those emotions ended seemingly two hours later, when someone he considered a friend, who he helped out early in his career, and then returned the favor just a few years prior was suddenly stolen from everyone in NASCAR.

A week later, his emotions were high as he not only had broadcasting duties, but gave a pre-race invocation knowing that Dale Earnhardt was not at the track, but his number sure was prominent.

He started his career with happiness and sadness in one afternoon, and come June when FOX heads to Sonoma, we’ll see happiness as he makes the final call of his career, but also sadness knowing it’s over.  D.W. has stood with FOX since the beginning, and he’s done exceptional.  But, I also know he’s ready to spend time at home and enjoy himself away from the track.  Healthy, happy, and honored.  Thanks D.W.

And now, we’re focusing at the actual race that is happening.  I mean, it is Bristol after all, we know someone is going to be upset at race’s end.

This place just brings out emotion beyond comprehension because yes, you’re on a half-mile speedway.  But at the same time, these guys are going speeds you’re more prone to seeing at a place like Darlington.  Laps here take less than 20 seconds, not exactly much time to make friends, but plenty of time to make enemies.  We’ve seen Kevin Harvick jump a pit wall, through a crowd, and grab Greg Biffle by the collar to make his point clear following an Xfinity race.  We all know the beating and banging that Kurt Busch and Jimmy Spencer did at this place while going for the win, and those two aren’t exactly exchanging Christmas gifts.

Tony Stewart certainly had his discontent with Matt Kenseth, and even the broadcasters forgot that Smoke is a lefty, but he sure could throw a helmet like a fastball.

Add in all the middle fingers, hands being thrown, or say heat shields like Ward Burton did for Dale Jr. back in 2002.  I mean, the list goes on for miles because this place is just so fast, so tight, and one mistake makes everyone boil over with aggression.  It’s also the one place you can get payback and probably not have to worry about the other driver getting payback for a while.  It’s not like one driver can wreck you at Bristol and then take you out the next week at a bigger, faster speedway.  The fallout would be enormous.

I’m expecting someone to end up in the wall thanks to a bumper tag, without a doubt.  Although I am not hoping for someone to get tackled like Bret Hart did last night during the WWE Hall of Fame induction.  But, if someone does, I hope someone gets their licks like the ones who dragged that fan out of the arena.

It’s Bristol, baby…let’s turn em loose.

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