By admin | March 20, 2009
By Richard Allen
Prior to qualifying for the Food City 500 no one would have been surprised if they had been told the winner of this race would be either Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Carl Edwards or Jeff Burton. After all, every driver on that list has won before at Bristol except for Bowyer who last year had two Top 10s on the half-mile. There are 12 wins among the other six drivers on that list.
However, each of those drivers made the task of winning this race a bit more difficult than usual on Friday. Every driver on that list qualified 30th or worse.
To illustrate how difficult the chore of winning on Sunday will be for these competitors, in 96 races held at the Bristol Motor Speedway the eventual winner has started 30th or worse only two times. Elliott Sadler won after starting 38th in the spring of 2001 and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. started 30th on his way to victory in August of 2004.
The pits at Bristol have been reconfigured in recent years to make them more fair for everyone but pit selection is still vital. Qualifying so poorly will cause the teams of these drivers to settle for the ‘leftovers’ on pit road.
And more, the further back in the field a driver starts, the greater the chance of being involved in an accident not of his own making.
There a enough cars to pass on this high banked short track even when starting near the front. The seven drivers mentioned above have dug themselves a deep hole with their poor qualifying efforts. Each of them could still win this race but none would deny that it is going to be a difficult task to say the least.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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