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NASCAR Irwin Tools Night Race: Old School Bristol with New School Racing

BRISTOL, TN - AUGUST 25:  Jeff Burton, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, leads a group of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 25, 2012 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
Francisco BernardContributor IAugust 26, 2012

Old Bristol is back! Well...sort of.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series revved its engine under the lights at the historic Bristol Motor Speedway last night in a race that did not disappoint.

After Brad Keselowski dominated the spring race at Bristol en route to his second straight victory at "The Last Coliseum," track owner Burton Smith ordered changes to the track that would narrow the groove of the track to force the cars to drive on the bottom line, in the hopes of reviving old Bristol racing.

Well, Smith got half his wish. We witnessed one groove racing, but instead of bump and run slide jobs on the bottom, we saw it take place on the top. In the winning move, Denny Hamlin made a bump and run on the top and slid right in front of Carl Edwards' 99 car. For 500 laps, the top line was the preferred line and if you were stuck on the bottom, you would be freight-trained to the back until a hole opened up on the top.

To summarize the night, it was a race of opposites. First, the race lineup was determined on the fastest practice times because qualifying was rained out and Casey Mears, driver of the No. 13 Geico Chevy, was on the pole. Second, the top line was the preferred line all night, making Bristol look oddly similar to Darlington Raceway where everyone just flirts with touching the wall. Finally, instead of the bump and run on the bottom, cars were beating and banging at the top of the race track, providing off your seat excitement, like Bristol racing should be.

However, we also witnessed old school Bristol racing. Patience was thin, tolerance was low, fingers were pointed and helmets flew.

Yes, helmets flew and when helmets fly, you know it was a great race.

The helmet incident occurred after Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart got tangled up while battling for the race lead. Tony Stewart got out of his car, took off his helmet, waited for Matt Kenseth to get on pit road and flung his helmet towards Kenseth's car, hitting the hood of the No. 17 car.

NASCAR fans asked for old school Bristol racing and their wishes were granted with the new school utilizing the top of the racetrack instead of the bottom. Drivers traded paint, a bump and run decided the winner, and old school Bristol racing has returned with a twist.

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