Sprint Cup teams face tough stretch

BY Larry McReynolds • April 19, 2011

If you are one of those NASCAR Sprint Cup race teams that are riding high right now, you really hate to see an off weekend like we have coming up.

Clint Bowyer comes to mind because, in the past four races, he has recorded four top-10 finishes, including a consecutive top-two finishes.

I have always maintained it's really good that we don’t race on Easter weekend. Now, the Camping World Truck Series and the Nationwide Series teams will be in Nashville this week racing on Friday and Saturday. So, weather permitting, there will be no racing on Easter Sunday.

What the Cup teams are preparing for now is 12 consecutive weeks of racing from coast to coast before their next break. They will cover all different types of tracks, from road courses to a restrictor-plate track to short tracks, etc.

What makes the next 12 weekends really intriguing is that right now we don’t know who the absolute 12 Chase teams will be. After the next 12 races, including the all-star race in Charlotte, the picture will become a lot clearer in terms of whom the players for the 2011 championship really are.

It’s hard for me to believe we have only five races left in our NASCAR on FOX portion of the season.

We all have enjoyed great racing and competition this year. We’ve had eight races with seven different winners. How incredible is that? Mother Nature has played a role in a lot of this, too. Last year we had rainouts, delays, etc., but just like Sunday in Talladega, you couldn’t have asked for better weather.

So, in two weeks, the teams will head back on the road, and the first stop is Richmond. You all have heard me say this many times: To me, Richmond International Raceway is the perfect size for a short track. It’s not so small that the 43 cars become like a conveyor belt while, at the same time, still small enough to call it a short track.

Now with every short-track race, when the checkered flag waves, there will be people with their feelings hurt. Tempers tend to boil over on the smaller tracks, as we have seen many times at Richmond.

Don’t forget that all the teams know that when they come back to Richmond in September, for some of them it could be their last shot to make the 2011 Chase.

After that, it becomes a durability race for the drivers and the cars as they race 500 miles at Darlington Raceway for our second consecutive Saturday night race. That’s on Mother's Day weekend, so that is always special in Darlington.

After that, we all run up to Dover for 400 miles on the 1-mile concrete track, and then the teams get to enjoy two consecutive weeks at home with the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and the Coca-Cola 600, which is our longest race of the year.

Now, speaking of the all-star race, drivers like Jeff Burton, Joey Logano, Paul Menard and others know these next three races are their last chance to hopefully qualify for the all-star event. They have three more chances to win a race and qualify for the event or then they have to try to do it the hard way, with the challenge race earlier in the evening of the all-star race.

So there are a lot of agendas out there right now. So while the teams will be able to enjoy Easter this weekend with their families, after that all eyes will turn to 12 consecutive grueling weeks.


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