Bristol And The First Round Elimination

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

It’s more than just another Saturday Night under the lights. It’s more than just a catch phrase of, “It’s Bristol, baby.” It’s even more than just another elimination race. This one is important in so many ways it’s even hard to put into words – although many have tried and will try. This one is a testy, five hundred laps at one of the toughest tracks on the NASCAR circuit and anything can happen in the playoff part of the whole thing. When it is over, it will have four less drivers moving on to the round of twelve in the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs for the Championship.

There’s a lot riding on this race. Well, that is, for one driver in particular. His name is Kevin Harvick and, so far, this first round of the 2022 playoffs hasn’t been kind to him. In fact, if it could go wrong, it has for him and it has put him in a must win situation for this Bristol night race. I agree with his statement saying when asked what he thought his chances for winning at Bristol this weekend. He said, “Better than most…” That is more true than even the fact his car caught on fire at Darlington or that he finished dead last, last weekend at Kansas. He is one of the drivers that knows what it takes to run well at Bristol and he usually has run strong there. If he wants to move on in the playoffs, he has to win Saturday night.

Harvick isn’t the only one in a tight situation if moving on is in the cards for several others. The obvious ones are already below the cut line but, if the last two races have made anything at all clear, no one is really safe other than Christopher Bell IF they have a bad night at Bristol. Now I’m not saying every one of the remaining fifteen drivers are in trouble but, it is pretty obvious to this fan, a really bad night could spell trouble for just about any of them.

Kyle Bush seems to be the name heard most when it comes to which driver might win Saturday night. A lot of people seem to think because of his many previous wins and the fact that he has now a place to settle in for next season at Richard Childress Racing, he is the obvious choice to end up in Victory Lane. Personally, I’m not so sure about that. He might win and it would definitely move him on to the Round of Twelve but, I’m just not as firmly convinced as some are. After what happened to Tyler Reddick last weekend, something like that could happen to any of the drivers and the only one of them it wouldn’t really affect is, once again, Christopher Bell. In my opinion, even someone with the number of wins in all of NASCAR like Kyle Bush, anything can happen and keep both him and Kevin Harvick from moving on.

Looking back at the last two weeks, it is obvious that many of the playoff drivers are struggling, at least a bit. The first week, at Darlington, the top drivers coming into the playoffs found themselves moved down the list and kind of appearing dumfounded. I’m not saying they were but the circumstances of that first race in the playoffs was, in my opinion, a definite wake up call for all of them. It showed just how little could be assumed in this 2022 NASCAR Cup season.

I mean, look at Chase Elliott. He was in the same place that Christopher Bell is right now just two race into round one and can’t afford another race like Darlington, at least not this weekend. Whose to say the same thing can’t happen to Bell at Bristol?

Look, I know this has been a very unpredictable season, especially with the introduction of the Next Gen car, the lack of practice time and all of the unforeseen things that have happened with the new car. There have been tire problems that have surfaced several weekends and even as recently as last weekend that took out the dominate car of Tyler Reddick. I don’t blame everything on the Next Gen car but it has been a challenge for the drivers and teams no matter which of them we mention.

Yes, it’s true, the Chevys have consistently been running strong almost every week but, they have also had their problems. It seems that a few weeks the Chevys have the upper hand and then next the Toyotas for a week or two and then the Fords. Personally, it has been frustrating for me and, if it has been that way for me, I can only imagine how it has been for the engineers, crew chiefs and drivers throughout the season. Even now there are unanswered questions about the engines, the tires and the cars in general.

Bristol is said to be short track racing at it’s best and I don’t necessarily disagree with that. It is a tough track and 500 laps around it can be emotionally and physically draining. Because this is an elimination race, I expect the emotions to be high and the tempers to be short. With what we have all witnessed this season, there is no doubt in this fan’s mind that this is going to be a wild night and there is definitely going to be some bumping and rubbing, pushing and shoving. But then, according to many, that’s just Saturday night short track racing. In other words, “It’s Bristol, Baby!!!”

Hey, this is Russ and that’s my view… See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 17, 2022 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
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