Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Rookie Stripe: Lingo You Should Know – On the Bubble




Photo Credit: Carol D'Agostino for Skirts and Scuffs

by Logan Stewart

Sometimes you want something so badly, you can almost taste it. Maybe you’re in the final minutes of a tough exercise class, or maybe you desperately hope that interview went well because you just have to get the job. Or perhaps you’re just waiting for those homemade chocolate chip cookies to come out of the oven, and seconds feel like hours.

When we talk about being on the bubble for NASCAR playoffs (formerly called the Chase for the Sprint Cup), that’s the feeling many drivers have.

The proverbial bubble is common lingo in racing, but unless you follow the sport closely you may not know what it means when someone asks, "Who’s in, and who’s on the bubble?"

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs take place during the races of the last three months of the NASCAR season. They’re part of the regular schedule, but because they're specifically designated as playoff races, only drivers who have qualified by the time they start have a shot at the championship. Drivers race for points all season, earning them if they win races and according to how they finish in the three stages of races. Over the season, drivers are continuously ranked according to where they stand in points. By the time playoffs roll around, some will make it in … and some won’t.

Drivers who are teetering on the edge of making the playoffs are referred to as on the bubble.

Photo Credit: Carol D'Agostino for Skirts and Scuffs
Bubble drivers must be extra cautious and avoid costly mistakes. Strategy between crew chiefs and drivers can be critical to getting into the playoffs, and the stakes are higher. Drivers who don’t earn a playoff berth still race each weekend, but can’t win the coveted championship in Homestead.

No one wants to miss making the playoffs, and if a driver misses out, it can be tough. He or she almost falls off the radar, at least when it comes to media coverage. It likely also means his or her season most likely didn’t end up with a preferred outcome.

Photo Credit: Carol D'Agostino for Skirts and Scuffs
On the bubble is used as a similar term in other sports, but it's been speculated that it originated in the auto racing industry, notably the Indianapolis 500. The Phrase Finder website found notes that the qualifying event is sometimes called “Bubble Day,” and references a quote from The Lima News, May 1970, which says:

“On the ‘bubble’ is rookie Steve Krisiloff whose 162.448 m.p.h. was the slowest qualifying speed last weekend. With only six spots open, Krisiloff’s machine would be ousted if seven cars qualified at a faster speed this weekend.”


Supposedly, as long as you’re on the bubble, you still have a chance. But if the bubble bursts, well… you can guess the ending.

Sounds like living on the edge to me.

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