Hey kids! Yes, I know it has been a while, but I finally had a few moments and a few thoughts to finally rub against each other and make a spark. You know how that goes.
This week we find ourselves at Dover. My home track. The Monster Mile. One of the most unique courses on the circuit.
It's also the first elimination race in the 2016 Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, when four drivers and their teams will turn their final laps of the season with the still-living goal of taking home that trophy and a big fat check.
Over the years, the fall race at Dover has played various roles in the drama that is determining a Champion, and this year is no different. For the longest time, the races at Dover were 500 miles in length and it was an endurance race. If you weren't with us then, you'd be surprised how many more drivers would make an error, how many more tires would pop, and how many more engines would go up in smoke just in that last hundred miles. It was considered a real achievement to win at Dover.
Now, for some, it will be a necessity.
The end of the race at Dover is going to be a bittersweet relief. It's going to be a relief for those drivers who will stave off the elimination for and advance to the next round of the races to be run at Charlotte, Kansas, and Talladega. It will certainly be bitter for four drivers, as out of the sixteen drivers competing for the Championship now, only twelve will still have the opportunity to do so once the checkers fall at Dover.
Finally, it's going to be sweet in fact that someone will tame that Monster and walk away with a rather unique trophy, and if it is someone who needed to win to be able to advance, it will be doubly sweet. Let us face facts; the story of Chris Buescher this season has been a bit inspiring. A driver with very little chance to make the Chase wins a race, and then has to fight to secure his spot in the top thirty in points to make sure he can capitalize on that win. However, Buescher’s performance in this first round has not been strong enough to make him a serious candidate for advancement to the second round. Currently he sits thirty points out of the final transfer spot of twelfth, and with only 45 points available to the winner, Buescher would realistically need a win to advance, otherwise a top five finish and the early exit of Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray, Austin Dillon, and Tony Stewart, in just about that order, would be what he would need to advance.
Really, there are only two drivers who are locked into the second round. They would of course be first round race winners Martin Truex, Jr. and Kevin Harvick. To be locked in via points, a driver would need to be 45 points or more ahead of the 12th place position. As of right now, Brad Keselowski is only 30 points ahead of 12th place Kyle Larson. Speaking of Larson, he and team mate Jamie McMurray are in quite the position, at 12th and 13th in points respectively. As they straddle the cutoff line, they must race not only the rest of the field, but each other to try to advance. There will most likely be a lot of eyes on the scoreboard during the race at Dover, as 5th through 11th place are separated by a mere 6 points. Then again, every driver would like to pull off a Kevin Harvick and get the automatic advance by winning the race, and then points won’t even matter.
the race is over, all of these possible scenarios will be replaced by fact, and
at the end of the day, there’s going to be a dozen guys moving onto the next
round still with a shop to take a title home, and then there will be the
remaining four who couldn’t cut the mustard.
Who tastes the sweet victory? Who breathes a sigh of relief? Who has to swallow the bitter pill?
Who does the Monster pick up in his giant paw and make a short day for, and who steps up to take a bite out of the Monster himself?