My responses to the SiriusXM "Morning Drive" fired-up Friday questions for Friday, August 22, 2014:
#1: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will be the Hendrick Motorsports driver to win the 2014 Sprint Cup Championship. I have thought for a long time that the winner needs three things -- consistency, some wins and most importantly the belief that they CAN win. Beginning last year, the 88 team demonstrated that they have consistency, and that has continued this year. This year to date, they have three (3) wins, which will provide a seeding lift going into the Chase. However, most importantly, the three wins this year have shown Dale that he CAN win, and I believe that he now believes the same. A fearless mental attitude coupled with Hendrick Motorsports resources and preparation is awful tough to beat.
#2: Jeff Gordon has won 12% of the Sprint Cup races he's ever entered, and has demonstrated that he can win at that level again this year, by winning 3 of 23 races so far this year (13%.) If this performance continues, Jeff will need 75 more races to get the 9 more victories he needs to reach 100. That is perfect, with 13 races left this year and 72 opportunities available over the next two years. So yes, give Jeff these 85 races and he will amass at least 100 Sprint Cup victories.
#3: Bristol is a "crown jewel" race on the Sprint Cup calendar, but it belongs in the Chase ONLY if it is an elimination race (i.e. Race #3, #6 or #9) in the Chase. Weather probably precludes it being #9, so race #3 or #6 is more likely... probably #3. If it falls in spot number 1, 2, 4, 5, 7 or 8 I don't think the tone and atmosphere of that race is much different than it is now.
In my opinion, the August Bristol race got too tame beginning in 2004 with the advent of the Chase. The reason being is that it falls too close to the beginning of the Chase -- if a driver is locked-in, they don't care. If a driver, however, is border-line in or out, they're too conservative so as not to hurt their chances.
Because of this, I say move Bristol into the Chase as race #3 or leave it alone.