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July 31, 2014

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Martinsville provides what Bristol used to offer

Martinsville is now Bristolville. I used to look forward to the races at Bristol more than any other races during the season. Not anymore. Now I wait, like an anxious kid who waits for Santa, to see the racing at Martinsville.

The reconfiguration of Bristol neutered most of the rough and tumble racing we used to see at the Tennessee track. So thank goodness Martinsville is still around to provide the type of racing that a short track should provide.

For me, Martinsville represents the best kind of stock car racing. It’s close, it’s aggressive and it’s physical. Although the competition is tight, the drivers have to work to pass. Add to that a pit road that resembles a can of packed sardines and you have enough variables to always make the racing interesting.

NASCAR may define competitive racing as having all of the manufacturers represented in the top 10 positions at the end of a race. But if there are five car lengths between each car as they cross the finish line on a cookie-cutter track, then that’s not my idea of competitive.

There’s been talk this season about reconfiguring Auto Club Speedway. If a plan to change that track ever goes into effect, I say turn it into a Martinsville.

I admit that I’m a bit confused about what constitutes the reason for a caution flag. NASCAR threw the yellow flag with 16 laps to go in Sunday’s race for a 6-inch piece of debris. But on the final lap there was no caution when a car spun on the frontstretch as the leaders came barreling out of turn four. OK, we like all like to see a green-flag finish, but there is an inconsistent nature to what dangers warrant a yellow flag. Denny Hamlin told USA Today: “I did see that debris for sure, however it was there at lap 100. I don’t know if there was another piece of debris somewhere. But the one I saw them pick up had been there for 200 or 300 laps.”

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So who’s more aggressive? Jeff Gordon or Juan Pablo Montoya? Well, that depends on whom you ask. Gordon would say Montoya and vise versa. It’s funny how quickly these drivers will usually play the role of the victim the minute there’s any fender banging on the track.

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