Round One Cutoff Race At Bristol Under The Lights

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

This race at Bristol is more than just another Saturday night under the lights. There is a lot riding on this one and there are more than four drivers and teams that just can’t afford to have a bad Saturday night at the races. The four in harms way when the race starts are Martin Truex Jr., Bubba Wallace, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Michael McDowell. Three of them have at least a chance to move on IF some of those just above the cutline have big problems but Michael McDowell’s only real chance is to win.

I don’t know about you but I’m beginning to see pattern emerging in this year’s playoffs. The first one to win a playoff race was Kyle Larson. Tyler Reddick won the second one. Now, Christopher Bell has won the first three poles. Could it be that the third time is the charm for him. After all the first two poles didn’t really help him all that much and he didn’t end up in Victory Lane in those first two races.

I mean, just think about it. If he wins this race at Bristol, he would be the third driver to win a race in this first round of 2023 that came from a dirt track sprint car background. Seriously, Kyle Larson and Tyler Reddick are both from the sprint car side of things where they drive up within inches of the wall. Like I said, IF Bell wins at Bristol tonight, the precedent will have been set. All of the first-round winners would be from dirt track, sprint car backgrounds.

Now, I guess you’re wondering why I would even bring it up. Well… in all honesty, I find it interesting to say the least. Could it be that simple? Could it be that we will witness a playoff that ends up being between some of the best drivers to come from that dirt track sprint car background?

In the meantime, there are some veterans that would like to show that they still have what it takes to win the NASCAR Cup Championship. You know their names. Names like Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. and Michael McDowell.

Being as this is his final year, Kevin Harvick is one that would like to move to the final four and leave his NASCAR career with a Championship. First, he must make it to round two. Going into tonight’s race he is in but, only by seven points and that isn’t much considering the track and its challenges. He can’t afford to have a bad night and, at Bristol, it doesn’t even have to be his mistake or his fault that could cost him moving on to round two. He could get caught up in someone else’s problem and it could totally change his opportunities.

Martin Truex Jr. is a big question mark for moving on. As the old song goes, “If it weren’t for bad luck, he’d have no luck at all.” That’s been the story for his first two races in the round of sixteen. Whether or not his racing luck changes in tonight’s race could make a world of difference in whether or not he advances even to the round of twelve. Another bad race and he is done for this season’s playoffs.

As I said earlier, Michael McDowell needs to win if he wants to move on to the next round. He can do it but, from this fan’s view, the deck is really kinda stacked against him. I’m not saying he won’t win. I’m just saying if he does, it would be the biggest surprise and story for the 2023 season to this fan and many others I am sure.

Getting back to Christopher Bell taking his third pole in a row and his chances of a win tonight, I’ll take a wait-and-see attitude. It’s really hard to see him having the fastest qualifying time for the third straight weekend and not having at least a little change is his luck. He and his team made their own mistakes the last two races and I am sure they have beaten themselves up over them all week. There is one thing I will say though. Mistakes, or the lack there of, can make or break someones chances for making it to the final four or even the round of twelve.

Taking a serious look at the standings of the playoff drivers, a little less than half of them are somewhat safe for making it to the next round. Two of them are already locked in by wins. One of them is safe by points and two of them would have to have extremely bad nights to miss moving on.

With all that’s on the line, the chances of this being a trouble-free race for all is about zero and none. Thirteen of the sixteen playoff drivers need to have mistake free nights and a bunch of them need to get a lot of points or a win. The problem is there are twenty others also in the race and the playoff drivers have to contend with them for five hundred laps.

And then, there’s that other problem that will stare all of them in the face for over two hundred and fifty miles… 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 16, 2023 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
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