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That could change in Atlanta, of course, which is why Truex is racing with a cast after breaking his right wrist in a crash at Bristol last weekend. Scott Speed is prepared to park his car and step in for Truex should the pain become unbearable during a 325-lap event on one of NASCAR’s fastest tracks.

That said, it’s hard to envision any scenario where the driver of the No. 56 car steps aside.

“I’m going to say there’s a 99 percent chance that I will race the whole race,” Truex said, even though he acknowledged “my fingers still hurt, my knuckles are kind of tender, so shifting is a little bit of an issue as far as the pain goes.”

Kurt Busch is trying to get one of the second-tier teams, Furniture Row Racing, into the Chase before he moves to Stewart-Haas Racing next season, the former Cup champion’s career back on the upswing after he was fired by Penske Racing for unruly behavior.

“It’s tough to have the present to work on and try to get Furniture Row in the Chase and then the future with Stewart-Haas Racing. It’s tough to balance it all,” Busch said. “I think the most important two races in the No. 78 car’s history are these next two.”

Earnhardt will try to keep an eye on all those guys attempting to knock him out of the Chase.

But there’s only so much he can do.

“You can’t run the car any faster than it will go,” Earnhardt said. “If you’re having trouble beating a couple of guys, just stay as close to `em as you can and maybe have a shot at getting around `em at the end of the race. Just run hard and run smart. If you don’t do anything stupid, that’s the thing that usually pays off.”


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