NASCAR

Non-Chasers looking for attention

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Steve Byrnes

Steve Byrnes is a host and reporter for NASCAR on FOX. A broadcast veteran, he has covered racing for more than 20 years. Follow him on Twitter.

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Drivers in the Chase for the NASCAR Nextel Cup are trying to insulate themselves from distractions. Meanwhile, drivers with uncertain futures are looking for exposure. Chaser Carl Edwards wants to enjoy the Chase and told me he's not going to freak out because he is in title contention. For him to stay in a good frame of mind, he's got to eliminate distractions and spend time with his friends in Missouri. Those guys help insulate him from the pressures of the Chase. When we do The Chase is On in Charlotte, he's committed to doing it because he enjoys it, but he won't change his life because he qualified for the Chase. It's not about limiting yourself from the media; it's limiting yourself from distractions. Kyle Busch has been having Monday Night Football parties at his house and playing cards with the guys. What's the lesson? Do whatever you've got to do to get through these 10 weeks if you are part of the championship playoff.

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If you're Jeremy Mayfield, you're wondering where you're going to work next year. You've got a wife, and you've got a career to protect. Not only are drivers like Kyle Petty trying to stay in the top 35 in owner points, which would secure his team a starting position each week, but you also have guys fighting for their careers and to get in the best equipment possible. You don't go up from the Cup Series; you can only go down. You're at the pinnacle of racing with drivers like Juan Pablo Montoya here, and Dario Franchitti, Jacques Villeneuve and Patrick Carpentier are headed over from open-wheel racing. Where do you go from here? It's a lot of pressure on Mayfield, and it ups the ante for everybody.

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Rick Hendrick changed the way this sport gets new talent when he signed Jeff Gordon in 1992. Traditionally, owners would get a guy that's been in the Busch Series for six or seven years or run a veteran like Hut Stricklin. When Hendrick said he was going to plop a 21-year-old in his equipment, it changed how things got done. Now, owners like Chip Ganassi are having pretty good success with Montoya so he wants to bring over Franchitti. If they surround these guys with enough resources — whether it's drivers, crew chiefs or equipment — they can make a successful transition. There's no doubt that Mayfield is a Cup driver. With these new racers entering the sport, he's fighting to hang on, and Cup rides are getting fewer and further between.


NASCAR on FOX and SPEED host and reporter Steve Byrnes has covered racing for more than 20 years.

Tagged: Kyle Petty, Dario Franchitti, Jeff Gordon, Scott Riggs, Juan Pablo Montoya, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Patrick Carpentier, Jacques Villeneuve

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