Bristol Bubble Boys

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Sunday will give us the field of 65 for this year's NCAA Basketball Tournament.

But it will also be the day the Top 35 is locked down for the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.

After Sunday's Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway, the first 35 drivers in the 2008 Sprint Cup Series standings will have a spot in the pivotal group, which brings a guaranteed starting spot in the next race at Martinsville Speedway on March 30.

Up until this weekend, the Top 35 from last year's points were used. But things revert to the new season after race five, which is Sunday's stop in "Thunder Valley."

That mans it's going to be an awfully important day for a group including Casey Mears (30th), Jamie McMurray (31st), J.J. Yeley (35th), Sam Hornish Jr. (36th), Dave Blaney (37th) and Dario Franchitti (40th).

"Bristol is going to be wild," Franchitti said. "We'll just do our best, and if we're out, we're out. We'll just have to do it in qualifying. If we end up out of [the top 35] we'll work our way back in. There's nothing else you can do."

Hornish is another open wheel star who like Franchitti, knows trying to secure a Top 35 berth at Bristol will be a challenge.

“It’s different from anywhere else that you’re ever going to go to – it’s a lot of fun,” Hornish said. “I’m still trying to get comfortable running here and get to where I need to be in the car. Things happen really fast here and you just have to have confidence in your car and find a way to get around this place.”

Blaney is off to a poor start this season and needs to step things up in order to give the Bill Davis racing team a chance to improve on what so far has been a disappointing 2008.

"Obviously, our main goal again this week will be to get ourselves a finish that will get this Caterpillar Racing team back into the top 35 in owners’ points,” Blaney said. “We never thought we would be in this position at this point in the season, but it is what it is, and now it’s our job to get things figured out and get this team locked safely within the top 35. I’m not sure how we got ourselves into such a hole. We’re a better team than we’ve shown.”

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