Casey Mears and Terry Cook have both failed to qualify for all four races so far this season, and their fate at Bristol remains uncertain for a few more days. However, once we get past Bristol, both teams should stand a much better chance of consistently making races. Why is that? Mears' newly acquired Earnhardt-Childress engines should help, but that isn't the point of this article. Instead, it will simply be a product of which cars they will be competing against for those last 8 spots in the field each week.
At least two and possibly three of the cars they have been competing against each week, the 82 of Scott Speed and the 71 of Bobby Labonte, will be locked in once we get beyond Bristol. (It is a mathematical certainty for Speed, even if he fails to qualify at Bristol; Labonte could still fall out of the top-35 but that is highly unlikely.)
Instead of having to go up against these two cars in qualifying, Mears and Cook will instead face Kevin Conway and Boris Said, who are both likely to fall out of the top-35 (they currently rank 36th and 37th). Said has been dead last in almost every practice session so far this year, and Conway is often just one spot higher. While it is possible that either or both of these teams could find themselves inside the top-35 when we leave Bristol, it is unlikely. And even if they sneak back up there for a week or two depending on who gets wrecked at Bristol and Martinsville, they almost certainly won't be able to stay there for very long.
With two slow teams replacing two fast teams in the group of cars outside the top-35, it will become easier for Mears and Cook to start making races. Hopefully their funding will last long enough to get them to the point where they are both making races consistently.
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