Expect old-style racing at Bristol

As many know, I have been vocal about my disappointment in the type of racing we have seen in, say, the past three races at Bristol. I just don’t think it’s the kind of racing we have come to expect at Bristol.

This weekend, I am expecting that to change.

If you have watched these summer-stretch races leading up to the end of the regular season, you would have to agree that they have been really interesting and, to a certain extent, explosive. I think this weekend at Bristol, we are sitting on a powder keg. I really think we will see what the old Bristol used to be like.

Guys have scores to settle, and everyone knows that paybacks normally come on the short tracks. There are also opportunities to score bonus points for wins, which would affect where the guys in the Chase begin that final 10-race run. There is also an even bigger issue looming.

There are only three races left until the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase field is set. There are some big names on the razor’s edge who might or might not make the Chase. There are drivers who are feeling desperate. Desperate race car drivers will do desperate things.

So, when you mix that all together and have Bristol as the track you are racing on, well, just sit back and watch. I believe the fireworks are really going to be explosive. We might even have a really unexplainable night.

I mean, when it is Bristol, there is always beatin’ and bangin’. What we won’t know until the checkered flag waves is how severe it will be and how it possibly could change the Chase outlook for a handful of drivers. Then there is the added realization at that point there will only be two races left in the regular season.

Think back to earlier this season and the problems between Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick. Now Kyle’s leading the points and Harvick is still a factor. Someone else’s Chase dreams could be turned upside down if these two reignite their feud Saturday night.

It simply is that time of year. It has been a long season, and there are still 13 races to go. Some guys are fed up with some of the things that have happened to them by another driver. The track may be short, but, trust me, the tempers are even shorter.

The guy I am going to be watching, who I think has to be getting frustrated but is also very good at Bristol, is Kurt Busch. I mean, lets face it: His teammate is the hottest driver on the circuit, along with Kurt’s little brother, yet Kurt can’t even keep a right front tire on his race car. So he and his crew chief might be a little on edge with each other, and that could be volatile.

The good news for Kurt is it is Bristol. He is really good at this track. I think he will be trying harder than ever before to put that No. 22 in Victory Lane on Saturday night. Someone might get in his way, and I think he is of the mindset right now that they are going to have to move.

I think Marcos Ambrose will be a lot more aggressive. He won the Cup race two weeks ago. He won the Nationwide race last weekend. He has so much momentum and confidence right now, plus the even bigger factor is making his first-ever Chase is right there at his fingertips.

Bristol is a very good track for him. He knows that if he can win another race in these next three events, he will probably lock up the second wild-card spot. I look for him to beat and bang like never before because he has earned the right. This is the closest he has ever been to making the Chase.

These are some of the reasons I am excited about Saturday night under the lights at Bristol. I just think there are too many people with too much on the line right now.

For some of these guys, it could quite possibly be their only chance to make the Chase and have a shot at the championship. I don’t think fans realize what this one weekend could mean to so many people.

Watch that No. 33 car. Clint Bowyer needs to get in front of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart in the standings. Remember, Bowyer made the Chase last year but after the penalty following his Loudon win, he was a non-factor.

Now his “Plan B” would be to get a win. Bowyer is 11th in points. If he could get a win and stays in 11th, he makes the Chase. Brad Keselowski would get the first wild-card spot with his two wins and then Bowyer would get the second spot. So look for him to be on a mission this weekend and move people out of his way. Bowyer also has to feel confident because all three of these remaining races of the regular season are good tracks for him.

Speaking of Stewart, he is holding onto 10th place and that final guaranteed Chase spot by his fingernails. Add to that, Bristol hasn’t been very kind to him, so he possibly could be looking at a very long Saturday night.

Earnhardt Jr. is in the ninth spot. He loves Bristol and runs well there. A win at Bristol would not only send Jr. Nation and the NASCAR world into the stratosphere, but it would all but lock him into the 2011 Chase.

So the bottom line is that Saturday night at Bristol is going to be exciting and, I believe, explosive. There is just too much volatility with this Chase lineup. This year, NASCAR’s version of the Roman Colosseum could prove to be one for the ages.