Well, it’s that time again. Yeah, it’s time for the 2019 MENCS playoffs to begin and what better place is there than Vegas. I mean, it’s time for the sixteen drivers and teams competing for the Championship to start showing all their cards. No more playing around and experimenting; the time has come to go all in. The next nine races are all that matter as they try to make it into the final four and compete for the coveted Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship at Homestead in November, just ten short weeks away.
A lot of the talking heads have already chosen which four will be in the final four, but I’m not so sure I agree with them. Well… at least not yet. One of the interesting things about this playoff format is that there is no guarantee the ones on top, now, will make it to the final four. Just as some of the ones at the bottom of the standings had weeks of struggle before they sealed their spots in the playoffs, the same can happen to those that are considered to be the “most likely” ones to advance all the way to the final four.
I do admit the favorites, the ones on top right now, have managed a lot of wins amongst themselves and they do appear to have the advantage going into this first race. All of that can change immediately after this one is in the books. After all, Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer are great examples of what can happen after three races. They both got in by the skin of their teeth and, had they not performed as they did, neither of them would be in the mix at all.
Ryan Newman was constantly pressing to finish as high as possible in the last several races just to get into the top sixteen. His was no easy task and he fought and clawed his way in. Clint Bowyer was solidly in the top sixteen and ran into a string of bad finishes that almost negated his chances to even be in the playoffs. Both of these drivers didn’t lock themselves in until the race last weekend at Indy and both of them had to sweat it out to the very end.
Unfortunately, the drivers presently in the top spots, that locked themselves in early on in the season, could face the same struggles as Bowyer did. They have acquired a lot of playoff points and look to be obvious choices because they have multiple wins and show up almost every race weekend with fast race cars.
Although I do agree with the old saying the cream always rises to the top, I’m not willing to admit right off that their performance will continue to pull them through. In racing, anything can happen and bad racing luck can happen even to the best of them.
The names this fan keeps hearing mentioned as being the final four are, Kyle Bush, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. I realize that’s five but Kevin Harvick seems to be peaking at the right time and it’s a toss-up, according to many, which one is the more likely choice between the two, namely Harvick and Truex Jr. After all, these are the ones most often mentioned as the ones most likely to be in the final four even before the first race in the playoffs has seen its first lap.
If you don’t think what I am saying here can happen to any of them, just take a look at Jimmie Johnson. Earlier in the summer, it looked as though he was going to be in the playoffs by points, if not by having a win. But then the bottom fell out and he dropped a bunch of spots just like Clint Bowyer. Just as Jimmie Johnson fell out of contention completely over several weeks, the exact same thing can happen to any of the top sixteen in this first round, and in particular to the ones “expected” to move on. I realize this may sound pretty far fetched but don’t think bad luck can’t be a deciding factor in which of the drivers and teams move on. Engine failures, tire failures and any number of things can, and often do, go wrong. It doesn’t even have to be the fault of the ones taken out by someone else’s problem but, it can happen and there isn’t anything they can do about it if it does.
Now look… I’m not saying what happened to Jimmie Johnson is likely to happen to one of the top seeded drivers. What I am saying is, although a lot of the #48’s problems were brought on by their own miscues, there were also things they had absolutely no control over that cost them good point days. Those days cost them dearly and that is exactly the type stuff that could happen to the others…
Just before I close, I have to give my opinion of all the hype surrounding Jimmie Johnson’s missing the playoffs for the first time in his career. It’s my opinion many of the media guys (and gals) are making too big a deal out of it. NASCAR isn’t going to fold just because seven-time Cup Champ, Jimmie Johnson didn’t make the playoffs. It also doesn’t mean he is through and should retire. It just means he had a bad season and I wouldn’t be surprised if he won one or two of these last ten races and, though it won’t get him a Championship this year, it just might mean everyone should look out for him next season. I mean, now there’s no pressure and every bit of progress they make now can carry over to next year. Hey, just sayin’…
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
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Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
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