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Findley’s Fast Lane

The 2011 Sprint Cup schedule was released this week and the wild speculation about all the changes in the schedule was much ado about nothing.

Sure, there are some tracks changing dates, but the only significant changes include the addition of Kentucky to the schedule at the expense of Atlanta’s spring race and the addition of a second race at Kansas at the expense of a second race at California.

That second race at California, though, is a big one, a race included in the 10-race Chase to the Championship. Chicagoland Speedway will replace California among the tracks with chase races by hosting the first chase race on September 18 next season.

Instead of changes that did happen, the bigger news is changes that did not happen. Bruton Smith did not get his much sought after second race at Las Vegas and the season-ending race at Miami will remain.

Also, a road course was not added to the chase tracks, after much speculation that Watkins Glen’s date would be moved to be included in the last ten races of the year.

And, the start times for each race will remain consistent with what we saw this season. East Coast races will begin at 1:00 eastern time, west coast races will begin at 3:00 eastern time, and night races, save the 600 mile race at Charlotte on Memorial Day weekend, will start at 7:30 eastern time.

Did you see the little tiff between Joey Logano and Ryan Newman after the Michigan race last week? After being wrecked by Logano early in the race, Newman was somewhat hot under the collar and was giving Logano an ear full.

Logano’s excuse? Newman was racing too hard and didn’t let him pass. Huh? Unless the goal of racing has changed, the idea is to finish ahead of as many guys as you can.

Kevin Harvick won for the first time at Michigan and increased his points lead to 293 over second place Jeff Gordon. The way Harvick is driving, he looks to be the guy that ends Jimmie Johnson’s championship streak.

The Saturday night race at Bristol Motor Speedway, one of the most anticipated races of the year, is this weekend. And with only three races to go before the chase field is set, the drivers to watch will be Mark Martin and Clint Bowyer.

Those two Chevrolet drivers will be battling for the 12th, and final, spot to become eligible to race for the championship. Going into the race, Bowyer has the final spot, but only 35 points ahead of Martin. Realistically, this is the only spot up for grabs. Greg Biffle is 158 points ahead of Bowyer and Ryan Newman is 68 points behind Martin.

There will be fireworks, literally and figuratively, Saturday night. On the track, the fireworks will come from typical short track racing and drivers losing tempers. After the race, the winner will be welcomed with a fireworks show in Victory Lane.

Look for Jeff Gordon to bask in the fireworks and finally break a long losing streak by taking the checkers Saturday night.

Jeff Findley is Publisher of The Post-Searchlight in Bainbridge, Georgia – a sister publication of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald – and a syndicated NASCAR columnist. He can be reached via email at jeff.findley@thepostsearchlight.com