By admin | August 21, 2011
By Richard Allen
In east Tennessee the weekend of the August night race at the Bristol Motor Speedway has almost taken on the feel of a holiday. And this season, this race is taking on an even greater significance due to the advent of the wildcard allowances into NASCAR’s Chase for the Championship playoff.
After the Irwin Tools Night Race at BMS, there will be only two races left before the Chase cutoff. That said, any and all drivers still hanging in contention will be looking to take advantage of whatever opportunities they might have to qualify for the chance to win the 2011 Sprint Cup title.
After the 26th race in Richmond, the top-10 drivers will be locked into the Chase, no matter how many wins they might have achieved. Beyond that, the two drivers with the most wins who are not already locked in will be awarded a place in the playoff.
All that said, there a number of scenarios that could play out this Saturday night to really up the intensity at a track where in the past drivers have not needed any excuses to up the intensity.
For example, each top-10 driver will receive three bonus points for each win he has accumulated once the Chase for the Championship begins. A driver at the top of the standings such as Kyle Busch, who has won four of the last five Sprint Cup races in Bristol, has much to gain and little to lose by going all out for a win on the high banked track.
Drivers Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick also have little to fear in terms of dropping out of the Chase standings but much to gain by adding points to their playoff banks. Johnson has only one win thus far in 2011 and could use the bonus points to aid his drive for an unprecedented sixth consecutive title. Edwards and Harvick have experienced a few hiccups over the past few weeks and could use a win to hit their respective strides at the right time.
And more, the fight just to get into the Chase could prove very intriguing on this track where almost literally anything could happen. Drivers Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle are trying desperately to work their way into championship contention and essentially approach these next three races as must win situations.
Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will enter the race precariously clinging to their spots in the top-10 and will no doubt fight desperately to hold on to what they have. All this desperation by drivers both inside and outside the Chase standings could make for plenty of on-track excitement come Saturday night.
In recent years, attendance has been markedly down for NASCAR races at the Bristol Motor Speedway. This Saturday night, all the pieces are in place for that to change as a number of intriguing scenarios could well play out and return the concrete half-mile to a must see destination for racing fans.
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