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Bristol Night Race Kicks Off The ‘Panic Mode’ Season

Deb Williams | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, August 23 2014

For drivers – like Ryan Newman – who are desperate to get a victory in order to get into the Chase, the Bristol night race is huge. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

BRISTOL, Tenn. – Only three races and four available Chase positions remain before the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship run begins and heading into Saturday’s IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway most competitors believed the 500-lap event on the tough, half-mile track would be a frustrating, challenging race.

“You’ve got to really be on offense and defense,” said Greg Biffle, who without a win this season, was on the bubble for a Chase position. “You take chances and passes and all the things you can do. I feel it’s gonna take a win still to get in this thing [Chase] and that’s what we’re going for.”

Entering Saturday night’s race there had been 12 different winners this year in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. That meant only four positions in the 16-car Chase field were available to non-winners. A winless Matt Kenseth was fifth in points, while Ryan Newman was ninth in the standings. The next two drivers without victories this season were Clint Bowyer in 10th and Biffle in 11th. It would be possible for the winless drivers admitted to the Chase to be reduced to one by the time the Sept. 6 Richmond race concludes.

“I never feel like you’re a lock for anything until you’re really a lock for something,” Kenseth said. “Until it’s mathematically impossible to be out, I never feel like you’re in. We want to win.”

Kenseth said the Bristol track’s current condition made it a “lot of work” to drive because every single corner had to be attacked. It still was possible to attack the Bristol track and be “pretty aggressive.”

“Passing is a little bit more difficult than it used to be so it gets exciting really quick when you start catching lapped cars and have trouble getting around them and the guys are catching the leaders from behind,” said Kenseth, who qualified 16th.”

Joey Logano, who’s already locked into the Chase with two victories, believes the Bristol event will be one of the first races where the panic mode sets in for those who haven’t won a race this year.

“I think that’s gonna start coming into play in our races quite a bit,” commented Logano, who qualified fifth. “You’ll start seeing guys get aggressive and stuff like that. You’re gonna see slide jobs (in the Bristol race). You’ll see people still pushing each other.”

Logano said the Bristol track was different from what the competitors had faced previously at the facility.

“This tire has rubbered up the top pretty quick and so far it’s been pretty amazing on how hard you have to drive these race cars to go fast,” Logano said. “You’re right on the edge of that rubber and if you’re not up in the higher lane, there’s no grip at all, so it’s interesting.”

Deb Williams | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, August 23 2014
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