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Fact or Fiction: How Martinsville Tempers Connect to that Talladega Wild Card

Frustrations at Martinsville were a result of the upcoming race at Talladega
FACT

There is no denying the tempers short-track racing can induce on a driver from the regional ranks to the national levels, but Sunday’s Cup Series event featured a number of intriguing spats between Chasers including a verbal disagreement between RCR teammates Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton, and a retaliatory maneuver by Kurt Busch on Jeff Gordon. In both circumstances it clearly appeared the aggressor was more than a tad bit out of line – Busch turning Gordon simply because Gordon got into the No. 2 entering the corner, and these interesting comments between Burton and Harvick who were racing for second:

Harvick: He’s out of mulligans… that’s the third time he’s done that now.

Burton: I have done nothing wrong. The hole was there, I filled the hole and I will not put up with this. I’m a good teammate and I’m not going to let him run into me.

So what could be the reasoning for the shorter than normal tempers for drivers that have far too much on the line to get into a shoving match on the track? How about that big ole’ Halloween event at Talladega?

Of the four remaining tracks on the schedule, Talladega is the one crapshoot remaining, and given Jimmie Johnson’s dominance at the other Chase tracks, it may be the last chance to get within striking distance of the four-time champion. Martinsville was all about position. Position not just because the schedule is winding down, but because if any of the championship longshots were to have any shot whatsoever they needed to be close enough to capitalize on any hiccup the No. 48 may have at a track where an accident can easily happen.

Unfortunately for Burton, Gordon and Busch they’re too far back to make any run now. But for Harvick he needs to harness that aggression to make any progress on a driver and team that’s as steady as can be. He can’t put himself in those types of situations at Talladega, and if Johnson slips in the slightest bit he needs to pounce… it may be his last chance.

Talladega will rekindle championship hopes for those on the outside of the top three
FICTION

While Talladega may be a crapshoot, no driver outside of the top three made enough progress at Martinsville to truly have a chance to win the championship over the final three races. If you take a quick look at the standings you’ll see Johnson’s advantage over Denny Hamlin is a mere six points, and 62 points over Harvick… but fourth-place Kyle Busch is a whopping 172 points out and Gordon rounds out the top five 203 points back. Now you may be wondering why I’m so quick to nail the coffins on the 2010 season for 4-12 in the standings with such an unknown on the schedule next week, but you’ve got to remember the role strategy can have in a superspeedway race.

Johnson and Hamlin have the cards in their favor and they can easily take a top 15 and settle the championship between two or three drivers over the final three races. You’ll see the No. 48 and No. 11 running around at the tail end of the lead pack, most likely together. They’ll watch as the start and parkers pull into the garage and collect a check, and they’ll watch the 20-car pileup from a safe distance. They won’t put themselves in a position to get collected in the Big One until the final laps and half of the field has been eliminated. This may open the door for Harvick who has as good of a shot as anyone to win and reel in the top two, but will keep everybody fourth on back at bay. It may not be the best racing, but that’s what the Chase brings and either way we should have a great championship battle over the final month.

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