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Bristol Recap: Rough and Tumble at Thunder Valley

BRISTOL, Tenn. (March 27, 2006) – It was, after all, just a slightly atypical, typical afternoon of racing at Bristol Motor Speedway—atypical because the weekend was almost done in by snow, of all things; and typical in that Bristol just seems to have a way of making good days go bad—in a hurry.

Take Jeff Gordon, for example. In the closing laps, it appeared he was poised to lead his No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet to its third straight top-five finish.  But with just a few laps to go, Gordon was tapped from behind and lost control of his Monte Carlo SS. The resulting spin left him a very disappointing 21st. He is now seventh in the overall standings.

“It is pretty disappointing,” Gordon said simply after the race. “We had a great car.”

However, all was not lost for Hendrick Motorsports: Kyle Busch demonstrated the patience of a veteran and not someone who’d raced Bristol just twice before at the NEXTEL Cup level.  The No. 5 Kellogg’s Chevrolet team followed up Busch’s snowy and impressive NASCAR Busch Series win on Saturday with an eighth-place finish on Sunday.

“It was a great run for us,” Busch said of his Sunday performance. “It was just a solid effort by the whole team. They did a great job for me. We had a car that was tight, loose, tight, loose. We kind of fought all day to find a good balance for it. There at the end with about 60 [laps] to go, we were able to make up some spots and got an eighth-place finish out of it so that’s pretty good.”

Busch’s first top-10 at Bristol (his previous two finishes were 28th and 33rd) moved him from eighth to fifth overall in the standings.

Unfortunately, Busch’s day was the lone bright spot for Hendrick Motorsports. As the track so often does, it put a damper on the runs of both Jimmie Johnson and Brian Vickers.

Johnson, who entered the race leading the championship standings, didn’t even make it to the green flag before being bitten.

“Man, before we hit the start of the race we had a flat tire,” he said. “It was just a tough day for us.”

Changing the tire put him just two laps down, although when Johnson hit the wall hard on Lap 125, doing significant damage to his Lowe’s Chevrolet, his day was effectively over. He finished 30th and is now third in the points race, albeit, just 19 out of first.

And as he has done pretty much all season, Brian Vickers was in the midst of a quiet-but-solid run, seemingly on his way to the kind of finish that good, consistent drivers deliver. He was, however, in the wrong place at just the right time.

“Somebody up in front of me had a problem and we checked up then we had nowhere to go,” he said of his Lap 188 accident. “It is frustrating. We had a good car. We were running top-15 pretty much all race. It’s just unfortunate for everyone on this GMAC Monte Carlo SS team.”

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