The short track of Bristol is a wildcard in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule. Much like Daytona or Talladega, Bristol is a track where drivers just want to survive. A top-20 finish is sometimes considered a solid finish on the track nicknamed the “Concrete Conveyor Belt.”
This spring race proved to be a real pain in the rear with cold temperatures, a lack of fans in the stands and rain. It was the perfect combination to turn into a driver’s worst nightmare.
After a near-perfect start to the season for Dale Earnhardt Jr., Bristol’s half-mile caught up with NASCAR’s biggest celebrity, handing him a 24th-place finish. It was the first time Earnhardt had finished outside the top-10 since Charlotte last October, snapping an eight-race top-10 streak .
But there is no sense in dwelling in the past, especially with Junior having already qualified for the Chase. As the series heads back out west, Earnhardt Jr. will set his sights on California and the Auto Club Speedway, a place where he has seen recent success.
Earnhardt Jr. does have a rough history with the two-mile D-shaped oval, including a 2002 crash that gave him a concussion, which he hid from NASCAR. However, Hendrick Motorsports has seen success at this speedway and it has rubbed off on Junior.
If there is a sign in the numbers, Earnhardt could very well end up in victory lane this Sunday. Him and crew chief Steve Letarte have figured out the setup, posting a third-place finish in 2012 and taking the runner-up position last year. I expect NASCAR’s biggest name to bounce back this weekend, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the No. 88 finds its way to the winner’s circle.