Nascar Racing

It’s Crunch Time For Some Under The Lights At Bristol


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Rusty Norman

Like it or not, there are four spots left to be filled for The Chase and only three weeks of racing left before The Chase actually starts. It is possible that any one of those places, or all four of those places, could be filled by non-winners. It is also possible that all but one of them could be filled by three new winners in the 2014 season. Since there are 16 available places and 12 different winners so far on the year, the four remaining spots remain to be filled and that means it’s crunch time when the cup teams hit the track this Saturday night under the lights at Bristol.

Unless disaster completely strikes his team, Matt Kenseth will likely get in by points even if he doesn’t win a race. The problem is that he hasn’t had very good finishes lately and he’s lost some of his points cushion. If he wins this race, he’s in simply because of the win and not because of his points position. The way things have been going for him and his team lately, I think he would rather win so that he doesn’t have to worry about it for the next two weeks after Bristol, (but that’s just this fan’s opinion.)

Greg Biffle is probably the one sweating the most bullets because, winning aside, his chances are a bit precarious at this point. Since the Roush Fords haven’t been performing all that well lately, he would like to have a win just to lock himself in. As it is right now, him having a spot in The Chase is by no means guaranteed. With a win at Bristol, his situation would change completely.

The real drama in the qualifying for The Chase situation comes from the fact that even though there are 16 qualifiers right now (12 of them winners, four of them not) and if someone outside of those listed in the top 16 wins, even though some may have a point advantage over them, the win overrides the points when it comes to qualifying for The Chase. That’s just another reason why it’s crunch time for many that haven’t any wins yet this year. Even though there are only four spots remaining, the possibilities are mind-boggling at the least…

Once again this weekend it appears the Toyotas are struggling a bit. Even though they say their biggest problem is that they’re missing horsepower, from this fan’s view it appears they’re missing a few other things also. In this fan’s opinion they’re still a little bit behind the eight ball in several areas. Only one of those would be speed or the lack thereof. There just doesn’t seem to be that consistency they’ve had in the past. Maybe the easiest thing to say is it appears that they’re “struggling” at the moment.

Now that I’ve said some negative things about the Toyotas, especially in the JGR camp, it isn’t a good thing to count Kyle Busch out for winning the race this weekend or Denny Hamlin for that matter. Either one of them could surprise us and, even though it appears they just don’t have the horses under the hood, it doesn’t take much imagination to see that either one of them could end up in Victory Lane. There is a great possibility Matt Kenseth could do the same, also.

Though Clint Boyer has been struggling a bit this year, he and his team have been working hard and making progress and it shows in their finishes lately. If I were going to name someone that would be my biggest surprise as far as winning this race it would be a tossup between Clint Boyer or Marcos Ambrose.

I think I just detected an audible gasp out there when I mentioned the name Marcos Ambrose. I can understand that, but it is true, Marcos Ambrose could win the Bristol night race. In fact I would go so far as to say, other than a road course win, this race at Bristol is probably one of his better chances to win on an oval track. I know we all think of him as being a road course specialist and he proves that every year but, it is not beyond the realm of possibilities to think that he could take his first victory in Sprint cup on an oval right here at Bristol.

When it comes to Saturday night at Bristol it is this fan’s opinion that Ryan Newman probably needs the victory worse than any of the others I mentioned. He has been struggling throughout the year so far but in actuality his performance hasn’t been that bad. Winning at Bristol, or at either of the other tracks in the coming two weeks, would be a great boost to him and his team, (and that includes the boost it would give to his boss, Richard Childress.)

Just a couple of quick thoughts before I close this out. It is quite likely that the fastest line around the track will continue to be up near the wall. That means that is going to be hard to pass. It doesn’t mean there won’t be any passing going on, it just means with the fastest groove being near the top close to the wall, there’s really not a good place for passing to take place. Well… That is unless you consider the passing that can take place in the pits. Yessir, this race could possibly be won, or lost, by the actions of the pit crews and the things that happen in the pits…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 23, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
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By Rusty Norman

Amateur writer, NASCAR Fan, musician and former local Stock Car racer.