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Speed Reading Bristol: Navigating NASCAR's Bermuda Triangle
|Terrible trio of tracks ready to strike Chasers|
Each week, I receive anywhere from 150 to 1,500 e-mails in my FOXSports.com on MSN mailbox. And each week, those e-mails pretty much consist of the same content, ranked here from most frequent to least:
But over the last two weeks, a new topic has hit the number one spot with a bullet. "Hey Ryan, after just four races, is it time to start panicking that Dale Jr. might not make The Chase?"
The long answer yes, for three reasons. Namely, Bristol, Martinsville and Talladega. Three of the next five races on the Nextel Cup schedule are also the three most unpredictable stops on the tour. NASCAR's two smallest tracks and its largest all three present the same problem once the green flag drops. No matter how much you prepare or how good your car is or how impressive you think your resume' might be... these three tracks could care less.
"I have had cars that could have won at all three of those tracks and ended up in the wall," says two-time Martinsville winner
Which is exactly why Earnhardt,
Other than that, zero... zilch... blank... oh-fer. Not good news for a trio of wannabe title contenders that are currently sitting in an average points position of 31st.
"On one hand, you are glad to see these two short tracks coming up," says Robbie Reiser, Kenseth's longtime crew chief. "Because you know that aerodynamics and all of that doesn't come into play. But on the other hand, you also know that you can very easily get caught up in a mess that isn't your fault. A lapped car won't get out of the way or someone runs into you and knocks the nose off the car while you are running up front. That's the risk you run with so many cars in such a small space."
How arbitrary are the accidents? Consider this.
Thanks to The Chase's new 26-race regular season, the pain that comes from those bites has gone from that of a mosquito to a gator chomp.
Case in point, take a look at look at
Even without trouble during this graveyard shift, odds of coming from the lower half of the points chart by mid-September aren't good. Of the drivers ranked 13th or worse after four races one year ago, exactly one clawed his way into The Chase
Those are long odds at best. Especially with the Terrible Three Tracks sitting directly in the way over the next five weekends.
Ryan McGee is the managing editor at NASCAR Images and Senior Producer of NASCAR Nation on SPEED Channel. He can be reached at his e-mail address: email@example.com.