Hot/Not: Gordon earned plenty of Bristol goodwill

New Bristol produces, so does Brad Keselowski and what's happened to Kevin Harvick? That & more in this week's H/N...  

HOT: The battle for second between Martin Truex Jr. and Jeff Gordon in the closing laps of Saturday night's race at Bristol reflected exactly what the new Bristol is: a place where hard racing is the name of the game. It was a complete flip from when the only lane to race at Bristol was on the bottom, as Truex held Gordon at bay by running the highest of high lines in the corner.

However, the real story of the battle is how it likely went quite a way in ironing out a wrinkled on-track relationship between Gordon and Truex.

Gordon and Truex first tussled at Bristol — the old version — in 2006 when Gordon spun the rookie while Truex was a lap down. Truex was able to continue, but later tried to retaliate a bit by holding Gordon up. In an odd twist of the story, Tony Stewart was immediately behind and ended up spinning Truex again — ending his day.

Truex's ire was again raised in 2010 when Gordon's wrecking spree at Infineon Raceway nabbed his MWR No. 56. Truex was taken out in a subsequent crash and fumed after the race about Gordon's actions. By the next week — and after Gordon apologized — Truex still wasn't too pleased.

"I accept his apology, yes, but things are going to change between me and him. That's just the bottom line," Truex said, ominously.

Tensions never really boiled past that between Gordon and Truex, but you can bet they would have had Gordon even moved Truex out of the way on Saturday. Instead, Gordon raced clean — even if it meant watching the win slip from his most-laps-led fingertips was infuriating.

The ramifications from the clean racing could all be wiped out next week should they tangle, but as of now they serve good for both parties. Truex nabbed a runner-up finish and Gordon likely helped in staving off some payback from Truex — especially in the coming Chase for the Sprint Cup.

HOT: Brad Keselowski. Need I say more?

NEUTRAL: Would you believe that Truex's second-place run at Bristol was his best finish since Michigan in 2007? And better yet, just his fourth top-5 run since the end of 2008? {ysp:more}

After a few promising years at Dale Earnhardt Inc., the one-time winner in NASCAR (Dover 2007) hasn't panned out yet at Michael Waltrip Racing. However, he does now have two top-fives in the last three races. That's a start.

NOT: Remember when Kevin Harvick — with that daringly original nickname of "The Closer" — couldn't help but win races? Yeah, much of Richard Childress Racing doesn't either.

The RCR group had a terrible night at Bristol, with Jeff Burton's 15th-place finish leading the way. Clint Bowyer finished 26th while Harvick, continuing a slide to fifth in points, finished 22nd.

NEUTRAL: Jamie McMurray won't be able to take advantage of the Chase for the Sprint Cup wildcard this year, but his fifth-place finish on Saturday is hopefully the start of better things for the Earnhardt-Ganassi team. The finish was his second top-five in five races.

NOT: Kyle Busch's 14th-place run was slightly surprising, seeing as he has roughly 89 trophies from Bristol in the past few seasons. However, Rowdy gets the downgrade this week for his actions in the Camping World Truck Series race against Elliott Sadler.

Did Sadler run Busch hard early in the race? Sure. But it wasn't Sadler who caused Busch's race-ending wreck. The gut reaction to taking out Sadler may be another reason to doubt how well Busch will handle the pressure of the Chase.

HOT: Between Richard Petty Motorsports' Marcos Ambrose and A.J. Allmendinger, the team now has a win and four other finishes inside the top-15 in the last three races. That's not a corner turned, per se, but it is progress for a team that was on the brink of disappearing about this time last year.

NOT: Please, save your complaints about not liking the "new" Bristol. The racing continues to get better, and the lack of it being a wreckfest only gives the finishing results more credibility. If you think Bristol is boring now, you'd probably be best served lodging those complaints with the TV network's presentation.

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