Stress to the third power

With three races in each elimination segment of the Chase, the stress level of the 10-race playoff has been ratcheted up exponentially. Just ask Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“This has been really intense,” Earnhardt agreed. “We’re not used to racing for our season in little chunks—two- and three- and one-race spans like we’re going to do in this Chase. The Chase itself as a 10-race schedule was a wild idea when it first came out. This definitely makes things really intense.

“You feel it all week long. It’s unescapable as far as trying to get it off your mind or trying to take a break from it. You can’t help but feel these nerves of having to deliver on every lap in practice, every qualifying lap—everything matters to the 10th degree when compared to the format we had last year.”

According to Earnhardt, the difference is almost palpable.

“The races feel wilder, more intense,” he said. “I think the drivers themselves drive with a much greater sense of urgency, and everybody is just really super on edge. That’s what I sense anyways.

“I think that will continue for whoever stays alive (after each elimination round) and probably get worse. We’re all going to be drinking the Mylanta before it’s over with. If we don’t all have holes in our guts by the end of this thing, I’ll be surprised.”