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The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams take to the track at Richmond for the second race in the playoffs for the 2018 Championship in another “Saturday night under the lights.” Considering how things went at Vegas last weekend, it should prove to be a very interesting race. The pressure is on all 16 teams to perform well and especially those in the 13th to 16th positions. With what’s coming next weekend, this could prove to be the most important race of these 3 races in this first round of the playoffs. For those in those 13th to 16th positions, it is almost imperative that they finish at or near the front and score a lot of points for the weekend.
Now you’re probably wondering why I would say something like this one is more important than the next one. That’s because the “Roval” at Charlotte Motor Speedway is a brand new experience for them and hardly any one of the drivers feels confident about going to next week’s race. That is, if they “have to” have a win in particular at the Roval to advance to the next round.
Now I’m not one to say someone’s in trouble for advancing to the next round but, it doesn’t look good for the Hendrick Chevys or the Chevys in general. (Come to think of it, I am one to say that.) From this Fans view it appears that what I suspected all along is coming to fruition. The Chevys just don’t have enough speed to run with the Fords or Toyotas yet. Look, I know that qualifying doesn’t tell a complete story of what’s going on but I do know the qualifying shows that the Chevys, and in particular the Hendrick Chevys, are not starting in very good positions. That may not mean much as the race progresses and perhaps they will show some strength, but, it just doesn’t look good for them, especially if you’re a Chevy fan.
What does look pretty obvious is that Brad Keselowski is making a statement. He is actually going for 4 in a row after winning over the last 3 weekends. Although the odds are pretty high against that happening, I suppose if anyone can do it Brad can. One thing is pretty obvious. When it comes to money time, Brad is one of the best. There is no doubt in this fans mind that Brad does manage to show a lot of strength when it comes to these intense situations like the playoffs. When it comes to things like the playoffs, he does have a tendency to press harder and leave nothing on the track every race. I won’t say he does that all the time but, I will say that he does shine when it counts.
Even though he had a terrible weekend last weekend, Kevin Harvick won the pole for tonight’s Saturday night race and that could mean another victory for him in this 2018 season. I’m not trying to jump the gun and I do know that anything can happen but, Kevin is another one of those that seems to rise to the occasion when the heat is on. Fortunately for him, he had acquired enough playoff points during the regular season that last week’s poor performance didn’t hurt all that much. He’s not in the same predicament as the ones in the 13th to 16th positions but another bad performance could make next week’s race more important than it is at the moment for him.
From this fan’s view and in my opinion, Jimmy Johnson is probably experiencing the most miserable season he has ever experienced in the Cup series. This has been a season that if it can go wrong it has gone wrong for him and his crew chief Chad Knaus. Going into tonight’s race they find themselves in the 13th position which would mean they’re going to have a hard time advancing to the next round if they don’t win tonight or next week at the Roval. That has to be hard on the 7-time Cup champion but difficult times do come too every multiple championship winner in time. In my opinion, Jimmy Johnson is one of the most level-headed drivers in the series and I’m sure he can handle this adversity as well as he’s handled any others. Besides, there’s always next year. (Well, at least it appears that way.)
There are 2 Toyota drivers that are probably experiencing much of the same pain as Jimmy Johnson him being in those last 4 positions for this playoff segment. Of course that would be Denny Hamlin and Eric Jones. Both of them looked to be having good races last weekend but both of them had very poor finishes and not a whole lot of playoff points to counteract those performances. You can bet that both of them will be pressing for a victory tonight or at least trying to gain stage points and the victory. Otherwise, he could spell trouble for them at the roval next weekend also.
No matter how you look at it there’s going to be a lot of drama and intensity in the race tonight at Richmond. Some can’t afford not to win or at least finish very near the front and gain lots of points and some can’t afford to have a bad night or they will end up at the end of the line also. That’s one thing I like about the playoffs in the NASCAR Cup series. There are no definites and every week leading up to the Championship race holds a lot more intensity and drama than is normal in week to week races. There are a lot of “what ifs” surrounding the race tonight in Richmond. “What if” the top seeds all have a bad night? “What if” there is a total reversal or almost total reversal in the standings for the 16 due to some strange accident or something else? It should prove to be really interesting.
Now, “what if” somebody totally unexpected wins this one…?
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 22, 2018 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
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All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated