Bristol Sees Final Sharpie 500

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SHOW OF SUPPORT: Fans salute Mark Martin, who made his 1,000th-career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start in Saturday's Sharpie 500 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. (Tom Whitmore/Getty Images Photo)

SHOW OF SUPPORT: Fans salute Mark Martin, who made his 1,000th-career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start in Saturday’s Sharpie 500 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. (Tom Whitmore/Getty Images Photo)

BRISTOL, Tenn. — This is the last Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

In 2010, it will become the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, according to an announcement Saturday afternoon.

“We can’t wait to see the blue and yellow colors of Irwin Tools here for years to come,” said Irwin Tools President Neil Eibeler. “Like our many Irwin products, Bristol leads the way in innovation, quality and ingenuity among NASCAR venues.”

BMS General Manager Jeff Byrd said he was glad that Newell Rubbermaid, parent company of Irwin and Sharpie, “kept it in the family.”

As to how it affects the sponsorship of Jamie McMurray’s No. 26 Ford, Eibeler said that the company would continue to sponsor the car through the end of the year. McMurray is leaving at the end of the season anyway, in Roush Fenway Racing’s effort to get down to the NASCAR-mandated four cars per team.

– During the press conference, Byrd joked that no money changed hands in the sponsorship agreement. “We took it all in trade,” he said. “Got a lot of tools.”

– Fuel injection in NASCAR?

Apparently, the idea is farther along than you might think. GM and Ford don’t have a problem with it, especially since they don’t make cars with carburetors in them any longer and haven’t since the early 1980s. Watch for some movement on this in the very near future.

– Mark Martin made his 1,000th-career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start on Saturday night. “In some ways it’s an accomplishment,” he said, “but really to me it’s what you did in those 1,000 starts that really matters.”

What did he do to celebrate? Why, win the Coors Light Pole Position, of course. BMS officials gave him a trophy denoting the milestone and 1,000 gallons of aviation gas for his airplane, and Martin choked a bit in his acceptance remarks.

“Thank you, thank you,” he said. “I love this sport as much as you do.”

– Brian Vickers isn’t letting the nascent feud with Kyle Busch go quietly. In remarks on Friday, Vickers said of Busch that he didn’t know whether “it was strike one or strike two; he’s (Busch) out of strikes.”

– Some 47 cars were on hand for the Sprint Cup Series weekend. That’s more than were at MIS a week ago, but a far cry from the 50-plus that have been here in the past couple of seasons.

– Best sponsor name of the weekend? It’s a tie between the Guy Fieri Knuckle Sandwich Toyota of Mike Skinner and Robby Gordon’s Hard Rock Hotel and Casino/The Rouge Joint Toyota.

– Speaking of Vickers, Jimmie Johnson hung the nickname The Sheriff on the likeable 25-year-old.

“We were at a friend’s ranch in Texas and Brian got into the whole cowboy thing,” he said. “He showed up with one of the biggest guns known to mankind. It came in a box like one of those Nokia Power Tool boxes. It was one of those “Dirty Harry” guns, a massive revolver. He pulls the gun out and I’m like, ‘dang, sheriff!’”
All they were shooting at were some tin cans in a field, Johnson said.

– Speaking of feuds, there’s a low-level one going on between Juan Pablo Montoya and Kasey Kahne, which came to a head last week when the two touched and Montoya suffered a cut left-rear tire. “I don’t get what he’s trying to do,” Montoya said. “I think the position we’re in, we’ve got to be smart about not wrecking each other and get into The Chase.”

– Even though Kyle Busch seems to be on the verge of Chase irrelevancy, Jimmie Johnson is wary.

“From a competitive standpoint, I want him out of The Chase because he’s dangerous,” he said of Busch. “On the flip side, he’s one of the best drivers in the sport and needs to be in The Chase.”

– The buzz is back. Bristol was humming all weekend with lots of people to see and things to do. Of course, it’s Bristol in the summer; it’s always been that way.

– Here’s an interesting stat: the two road-racing champions, Juan Pablo Montoya and Marcos Ambrose, finished ninth and 10th, respectively, here in the spring. Saturday, Ambrose was third in his best oval finish, and Montoya was 27th after a trouble-filled race that included a flat tire.

– Marcos Ambrose is a breath of fresh air in the Cup Series. As he got out of his car after finishing third on Saturday, he quipped, “I was racing with Greg Biffle, Kyle Busch, Mark Martin, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Jimmie Johnson…what the heck am I doing in there?”

– With the Whelen Modified Tour sharing the weekend with NASCAR’s top three series, both Ryan Newman and Kasey Kahne competed in the UNOH Perfect Storm 150 on Aug. 19. While Kahne raced to a 28th-place finish, Newman was the victim of a multi-car crash on the second lap and finished 37th in the 40-car field. He fared better in the Camping World Truck event later that night, winning his first series pole and coming home fourth in his third-career series start.