Keselowski in jeopardy of missing top 35

March, 15, 2010
03/15/10
4:19
PM ET
The one man who was intentionally wrecked is the only man truly penalized from the controversial incident at Atlanta Motor Speedway. And it could cost Brad Keselowski dearly if he has a bad day Sunday at Bristol.

Keselowski now finds himself 33rd in owners' points, only 19 ahead of 36th, the spot where no one wants to be after Sunday's race.

The top 35 have a guaranteed spot in the field. That number is determined by 2009 points for the first five races of 2010. Bristol is Sprint Cup race No. 5 this season, meaning the top 35 will go by 2010 rankings after this weekend.

An early wreck for Keselowski, something that can happen to anyone on the short track at Bristol, could cause a 40th-place finish and mean Keselowski would join the go-or-go-homers (qualifying on speed) the next weekend at Martinsville.

Keselowski was on his way to a strong finish at Atlanta. After Carl Edwards punted the No. 12 Dodge and sent it airborne, Keselowski finished 36th and earned 55 points. Had Keselowski finished fifth, he would have earned 160 points.

That additional 105 points would have placed him safely inside the top 35 at No. 23 heading to Bristol. Consequently, a 100-point penalty for Edwards instead of the meaningless three-race probation he received seemed appropriate.

Let's assume Keselowski would have fallen back a few spots in the overtime laps at Atlanta and finished 10th. He would have earned 79 more points and ranked 26th in the Cup standings.

But Edwards' decision to wreck Keselowski means Brad K has to race conservatively at Bristol (not an easy thing to do on the high-banked half-mile oval) and try to avoid a horrible finish.

Edwards finished 39th at Atlanta because of his earlier collision with Keselowski, so some will say they broke even. Wrong.

No one deliberately wrecked Edwards. Even if you believe Keselowski was at fault (which the video evidence doesn't support), there was no premeditated plan to wreck Edwards, who remains safely inside the top 35 at 20th.

So the only man on Atlanta's two-man dispute truly penalized is the one who got wrecked on purpose. Now he needs to mind his manners at Bristol or find himself on the outside looking in at the top 35.

Terry Blount

ESPN Seattle Seahawks reporter

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