This weekend is crucial for Dale Earnhardt Jr., as well as NASCAR. Honestly, the balance of 2007, for both, hinges on Saturday’s “Sharpie 500” in Bristol, Tennessee.
Going into the weekend, Earnhardt stands 163 points outside of 12th place and the final position of eligibility for “The Chase.” The optimistic look says he has three races to make up this deficit …. which is not impossible.
However, for a negative and more realistic view, he needs to overcome one of the sport’s hottest drivers, in Kurt Busch. A former NASCAR Champion, Busch has won 2 of the past 3 races and rolls into a track he has dominated, in recent years, this weekend. Translation …. Earnhardt is in trouble.
This scenario is NOT what NASCAR wants …. trust me. Earnhardt shares focus with Jeff Gordon as the “faces of the sport.” Thus, it’s somewhat embarrassing to have the most popular driver not qualified for the “playoffs.” By the way, this will amount to 2 out of 3 years, if Earnhardt doesn’t make it.
If Earnhardt doesn’t qualify for the postseason, be assured NASCAR is a legitimate sport. That’s right …. Vince McMahon would never stand for this. He’d ensure that something dramatic caused Earnhardt’s entry into the playoff format. NASCAR is legitimate, but be assured, they’re quietly rooting for the #8 car.
Speaking of this weekend, if you’ve ever considered the prospect of watching a race …. this Saturday night is it. Imagine lining the outer edges of M&T Bank Stadium with a concrete racetrack, banked like a cereal bowl …. and, you’ve got Bristol Motor Speedway. It’s by far, the most exciting track on the entire circuit.
There will be crash after crash, followed by helmet throwing and chest thumping in “Thunder Valley” on Saturday night. Tempers flare and feelings get hurt on this ½ mile, high-banked oval. It’s always exciting.
I’ll predict Jeff Gordon or Kurt Busch dominates the affair. However, if there’s even a slight rumor of a Vince McMahon spotting …. I’m betting on Junior, in dramatic style.