Bristol, TN - Bristol Motor Speedway is a beast. The racetrack chews up rookies and spits them out all over it's high banked concrete. And in it's 50th year, the 'Worlds Fastest Half Mile' still brings veterans to their knees.

 Yet, as damaging as Bristol can be to racecars and driver ego's, it can be even more damaging to a teams championship hopes. This weekends NASCAR Sprint Cup Race, the Jeff Byrd 500 (Fox Sports Sunday 1:00 pm est), will certainly be painful for at least a handful of NASCAR's best. It always is - the question is who and how bad.

Bristol is notorious for huge wrecks and major pileups. No racetrack on the Sprint Cup circuit puts more fear in drivers than Bristol. Drivers, crew chiefs, and team owners know there is a very good chance what's inside their race haulers will be in pieces when they pull out of Bristol Sunday night. Short track racing at it's finest.

After the first three races of the season, former Sprint Cup champions Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch lead the Sprint Cup point standings with 113 points each. Stewart has just one Bristol victory in his long and glorious career, while Busch has visited victory lane at the famed short tack five times. Thanks to their position in the point standings both drivers could afford a slight Bristol mishap, but other big name drivers are not as fortunate.

No one should be surprised positions 20-40 in the series standings are riddled with names like Blaney, Yelley, Mears, and Lally - but Burton, Biffle, Logano, and Harvick? Really?

Richard Childress Racing driver Jeff Burton has been the picture of consistency throughout his career, yet he sits 32nd in the point standings following dismal performances to start the season. After the success RCR enjoyed in 2010, Burton felt strongly that 2011 would be the year the 43-year old veteran finally hoisted the Cup trophy in Homestead. One has to wonder if a Bristol disaster would derail his 2011 season just four weeks in.

Roush Fenway Racing driver Greg Biffle, a stalwart in NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup since NASCAR went to the format eight-years ago, is 31st in series points. Biffle has been a top-10 driver in NASCAR's elite series since Jack Roush promoted him from the Nationwide Series in 2003. But "The Biff" is on the outside looking in and after team owner Jack Roush made a crew change this week with Biffle's gas man. One has to wonder where the confidence level of the #16 team is after a horrendous start to the season and a shuffling of their team.

Joey Logano, also know as "Sliced Bread" - as in the greatest thing since, has been anything but. In fact, he resembles moldy bread more than fresh "Sliced Bread". The Joe Gibbs Racing driver is 30th in the standings, and making the media look really bad. Logano was many media members sleeper pick to make the 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup. The 20-year old kicked off the season with a less than stellar performance at Daytona, finishing 23rd. Engine failure at Phoenix relegated the #20 Home Depot team to a 33rd place run, and Las Vegas delivered another 23rd place finish. Three races, zero top-20 finishes. So much for the media knowing anything.

2010 Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 champion Jamie McMurray was another driver picked to contend for a title in 2011, but a poor start to the season has the #1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet team 29th in the standings and reeling after a painful 27th place finish at Las Vegas. But, no teams start to the 2011 season has been as disappointing as Kevin Harvick #29 Budweiser Chevrolet team. "Happy" Harvick isn't too "Happy" about being 20th in Sprint Cup points - especially after having the dominant car in the series in 2010 and fighting for the title down to the final week of the season.

Harvick had a strong car at Daytona, but a wreck just 22-laps in to the race sent the former Daytona 500 winner to the garage with a 42nd place finish. The following week at Phoenix the team rebounded for a 4th place run, but Las Vegas was another frustrating day for the Gil Martin led team. They finished 17th and left Sin City 42-points behind Stewart and Busch.

So, as the Sprint Cup Series heads back to the 160,000 seat half mile thrill ride known as the Bristol Motor Speedway, one has to wonder - who will Bristol bite this time. Who will feel the full wrath of Bristol's "Tiger Blood"? Will names like Biffle, Logano, and Harvick be moved aside for the likes of Paul Menard and A.J. Allmendinger? Anything, and I mean anything, can happen at Bristol - strap in race fans - Bristol is a beast.

CaptainThunderRacing.com | March 18, 2011