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Now it gets interesting. There are eight drivers and teams competing to make the final four and they have three races to do so. That means half of the ones previously competing to make the final four are now competing for the win at each of the next three tracks, Martinsville included. And then… there are the rest of the competitors that want to win.
One of the things that makes Martinsville interesting, especially in these playoff races, is that it’s a short track race and with all those cars on the track it’s hard to pass. That means track position is going to be as important as ever and the pits are going to be a place that can affect the outcome either positively or negatively. That puts added pressure on the drivers and the pit crews. The drivers because they cannot afford to get speeding penalties assessed to them. The pit crews because there are a lot of little things that can go wrong and cost them big time. From things like loose lug nuts to uncontrolled tires to running over air hoses or leaving an adjusting tool in or on the car. For all of the teams it is important to not mess up. For those in the Round of Eight, well, let’s just say they’ll be thinking about it the whole time.
For some, Kyle Bush is the favorite to win this one. For me however, well, I like to think of all the possibilities and he is only a small part in my thinking. There are way too many drivers not qualified for the Round of Eight that could win this one and some of them just barely failed to make the cut last weekend.
From this fan’s view, there are a couple of drivers looking for a win this season that have had at least one win every year since joining Cup racing. One of those has a very good record at Martinsville. Of course I know you know I’m talking about seven time Cup Champ, Jimmie Johnson. Yeah, I know it has been a rough year for him and the #48 team but I also know he is quite capable of winning at Martinsville. He has a lot of wins here already and I’m sure he and crew chief, Chad Knaus, would like nothing better than to get a win (especially since it has been so long since his last win.) Besides, the Chevys have been showing more speed lately and it is important to note, except for bad luck he’s had very little at all.
Another one that could throw a wrench into the works for those in the Round of Eight is Brad Keselowski. He may not have made it into this round of the playoffs but he is still a force to be reckoned with when it comes to winning at Martinsville. Should he win, it will make it just that much harder for one of the Round of Eight drivers to advance to the final at Homestead by winning. If they don’t have the points racked up, well, their only chance of moving into the final is by winning and there aren’t that many chances left to accomplish that.
Gee… did I almost forget mentioning Denny Hamlin? He is in the same boat as Jimmie Johnson. He is another of those that has won at least one race since entering Cup competition and he is also another one of those that has a very good record at Martinsville. As it stands and even though he isn’t qualified for the Round of eight, his chances are as good as anyone’s and, it is this fan’s opinion, he could be fighting for the win as the laps dwindle down to none. I won’t say he is one of my favorite drivers to win this one but I will say he’s got as good a chance as anyone.
Judging from his performance recently, I would almost say Martin Truex Jr. is one that either needs to show some strength that he and his team haven’t shown for while or he needs to win. Oh sure, they managed to make it into the Round of Eight but they only squeaked in. If there are any of this season’s “Big Three” that might have a problem moving on to the final, he would be my likeliest choice. Well… at least for the present.
When it comes to Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Bush or Aric Almirola, honestly, anyone of them could take the win on Sunday afternoon. The Stewart Haas teams have looked very good over the course of the playoffs and, from this fan’s view, it is possible they could all advance to the final at Homestead. Of course this fan doesn’t really think that will happen. I just bring it up because others have mentioned that possibility and it is there whether I think it can happen or not.
So… does anyone think Chase Elliott can make it four wins in the last twelve races? I have to admit, it is a long shot even though he does know how to get around the Martinsville Speedway. If he does win, that would really say something about how the Final Four will shape up and I don’t think anyone really expected that possibility. I don’t know if he will win, BUT if he does…
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 27, 2018 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
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All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated