Bristol Motor Speedway: The Gateway to a Stress-Free or Stressful Season

Ben BombergerSenior Writer IMarch 10, 2009

If there's one track on the circuit that most everybody loves, it's Bristol Motor Speedway.

The half-mile bowl shaped bull-ring near the Virginia/Tennessee border, is one of the most exciting tracks on the NASCAR circuit.

What makes the track even more exciting is the fact that it's the last race before the cut-off of 2008 owner's points.

In other words, the teams in the top 35 after Bristol next week are guaranteed a spot in the field when the circuit heads to the paper clip in the Blue Ridge Mountains, known as Martinsville Speedway.

Heading into Bristol next weekend, several top-notch teams are in danger of leaving without a spot in the top 35.

For example:

  • Mark Martin: Hendrick Motorsports No. 5 Chevy, 35th in owner's points, nine points in.
  • Joey Logano: Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota, 33rd in owner's points, 44 points in.
  • Ryan Newman: Stewart-Haas Racing No. 39 Chevy, 32nd in owner's points, 47 points in.

While Logano may not be a surprise to see on the border of the top 35, Martin and Newman definitely are.

Lurking outside the top 35 and waiting to pounce on any of the above driver's misfortune at Bristol are:

  • Aric Almirola: Earnhardt-Ganassi Motorsports No. 8 Chevy, 36th in owner's points, nine points out.
  • Scott Speed: Team Red Bull No. 82 Toyota, 37th in owner's points, 30 points out.
  • Paul Menard: Yates Racing No. 98 Ford, 38th in owner's points, 48 points out.

As a side note, all three of the above mentioned drivers were guaranteed spots in the first five races this year.

With the possibility of making up more than 150 points in any given race, it's clear to see that anything can happen after Bristol.

Leaving Bristol in the top 35 is essential heading into Martinsville if you want to be competitive.

Teams that must qualify their way in are forced to spend the majority of their weekend worrying about setting their car up to qualify, and get little time practicing race setup.

The three drivers on the edge of the top 35 have put themselves, and their teams, in a dangerous position heading into one of the most unpredictable tracks on the circuit.

At Bristol, it takes roughly 10-15 laps before the leader starts lapping the cars at the back of the pack.

Fall behind early, and it could be impossible to get laps back with so many drivers falling off the lead lap so quickly.

Running near the end of the pack? That's a good way to have your day ended early if you get caught up in somebody else's wreck.

At Bristol, the "Accordian Effect" is always lurking, waiting to take out half the field a few car lengths back from where a driver is forced to check-up after another driver cuts them off.

One bad move and a driver can quickly find themselves outside the top 35 heading into Martinsville.

While the championship cutoff is 22 races away, the more exciting race this weekend will be watching the cars jockey for position in the top 35.