Short tracks produce short tempers, and Bristol certainly didn't disappoint. Here is look back at the biggest winners and losers from the weekend that was at the "world's fastest half-mile."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Steve Letarte
Immersed in a year-long winless streak and running in the top five with 52 laps remaining, it would have been easy for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and crew chief Steve Letarte to gamble and go for the victory. But considering their standing in the points, it wasn't a risk the duo could afford, and while it wasn't the popular call, pitting proved to be the right call as Earnhardt finished 10th and moved 33 points clear of the Chase cutoff.
Juan Pablo Montoya
Throughout the season the No. 42 team hasn't lacked competitiveness, as there have been strong runs at Richmond, Dover, Sonoma and Watkins Glen. However, despite the speed, Montoya has been handcuffed by a lack of consistency with nine finishes on the year of 25th or worse.
But in recent weeks, Montoya and his team have seemingly turned a corner, having posted four finishes of 11th or better in the last five races, including an impressive third at Bristol. Unfortunately, this is a case of too little too late, as Montoya is being let go at the end of the year and Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing appears set to name Kyle Larson as driver of the No. 42 car for 2014 and beyond.
Because of his team's limited resources, David Ragan often says that the only tracks he and Front Row Motorsports can be competitive at are Daytona and Talladega. He might want to add Bristol to that list. On Saturday, Ragan ran in the top 10 for a stretch and finished 12th, his best result on a non-restrictor-plate track since 2011, when he drove for Roush Fenway Racing and equaled Front Row's best-ever finish on a non-plate track.
Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski
There are always host of drivers who leave Bristol disgruntled with where they finished and feeling they deserved better. In the case of Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski that was certainly true, as each had cars capable of finishing somewhere in the top 10. (This is particularly true for Busch, who led 54 of the first 76 laps before a loose wheel and a subsequent broken hub put him in the garage for repairs.)
Yet due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time (Keselowski) and mechanical failure (Busch), the former NASCAR champions finished 30th and 31st, dropping both out of the top 10 in points. Further compounding the problem is neither has won a race this season. To qualify for the Chase, each will have to be virtually flawless the next two weeks.
One month ago it seemed a foregone conclusion that Jimmie Johnson was going to win his sixth series title. Now following a stretch where he has crashed (Pocono), blown an engine (Michigan) and crashed again (Bristol) it no longer seems inevitable. That's not to say alarm bells should be sounded at Hendrick Motorsports, but there are definite chinks in the armor of the No. 48 team.