It seems like just yesterday that we were still in the offseason -- an early-season off week will do that to you -- and yet we're coming up on that critical fifth race of the season, the one where you'd better be on the high side of the 35th spot or risk losing your automatic ticket into the race each week.
The NASCAR Insiders took a look at who's in trouble and who's safe, and guess what -- none other than Brad Keselowski his own bad self is in a wee bit of trouble, as is 2009 Chaser Ryan Newman. A bad finish at Bristol -- always a possibility -- and Travis Kvapil, David Gilliland, Sam Hornish Jr., Bobby Labonte and Marcos Ambrose, in addition to Keselowski and Newman, are all looking at having to qualify their way into Martinsville and beyond.
Oh, and those guys looking to shove one of those cats out of the way? They include Robby Gordon, Max Papis, Kevin Conway and Boris Said. And given the trouble that some of these guys have had with staying up to speed during a race, you've got to think that they're more than a little nervous heading into Thunder Valley.
So, yes, we all want to see what happens with Carl Edwards and Jet Ski. But it's worth keeping an eye on the lower reaches of the standings, too. In Bristol, they'll be as far apart as the words in this sentence.
Bristol Last Race for 2009 Locked-In Drivers [NASCAR Insiders]