From a NASCAR Fan’s View
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There is always something fascinating about the final race of the season for NASCAR Cup. The winner takes the checkered flag but isn’t necessarily named the 2021 Champ. If you’re familiar with NASCAR and the way the final race works, you already know the race winner may not be the 2021 NASCAR Cup Champ. And I’m sure you already know that’s because there are actually two races in one.
Although one of the final four contenders usually does win the race, someone other than Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin or Martin Truex Jr. can win and be credited with the win for the 2021 season ending race at Phoenix. It is the race within the race that names the Cup Champ. Of the four contenders, the one that finishes ahead of the other three becomes the 2021 Season Champ, whether he wins the actual race or not. That used to be a little confusing but, hasn’t been for a long time.
When the race is finished and someone other than one of the four takes the checkered flag for the win, that person is declared the winner of the race, presented with the race trophy along with all the pleasantries that go along with winning a race and then quickly ushered out of the way so the 2021 Champ can be recognized. That other person is soon forgotten and moves on to next season, knowing he won the final race but all the accolades from that point will go the Cup Champ.
Yeah, I know. I didn’t have to go through all of that but I wanted to. Not because it helps fill up a page but because it is one of the unique things about the NASCAR playoffs and the final race of the season.
The four most important people to watch and discuss for this race are Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott. This is where the real race will be when it comes down to it. Oh sure, I believe people will be following more than just these four but, I also know that, at all times during the race, we will all be kept abreast of the race between them and the other thirty-five competitors. That is another thing about how NASCAR does the finale for the playoffs. The four competing for the Championship also have to race all of the other cars in the race while they’re racing each other.
It is pretty obvious Denny Hamlin is still bothered or, perhaps better stated, upset with the incident between him and Alex Bowman. As a fan, I wonder what that might mean for the way he drives this race for the all the marbles in the Championship. I don’t think he will be going after Alex Bowman at all, even though he will likely be near him at some point in the race, perhaps several times.
What I believe could happen is, even though Denny has been guilty of similar situations in the past, he just might be more aggressive as he moves through the field. In particular, I can’t help but wonder if he might be more aggressive with the two Hendrick drivers he might be racing against or trying to pass at times in the race. I’m not saying he would put them out but I am saying he might move them out of his way rather than race them for the spot he wants. That might sound a bit far-fetched but I still think it is a possibility. I don’t think he will be as aggressive with his teammate Truex Jr. however but, I do know he really wants to win this Championship and is probably willing to do whatever it takes to do so.
When it comes to Martin Truex Jr., I believe he is on a whole different agenda. He is a past Cup Champion and is usually methodical in the way he handles a race. In my opinion, he will be consistently looking for ways to improve his car’s handling and lap times. Does that mean I don’t think he will be aggressive? Not at all. I think he will be as aggressive as he has to be at all times during the race. I just don’t think he will be stepping over the line at the wrong times.
When it comes to the two Hendrick drivers, Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson, it is this fan’s opinion they will be fairly well matched in speed and handling and will race each other as they have most of the season. Both of them want to win and both of them have shown they can and have run one-two more than a few times this season. As to which of them might win the Championship, well, that is up to smarter people than me. I know which of them I would like to see win, but, I don’t know which has the better chance.
This is the first race in a while that has had a practice session and a qualifying session. I do firmly believe the qualifying and pit selections could have the greatest impact on how the four competitors will run and how they will finish. No matter how you look at it, I don’t believe there is any margin for errors on the track or in the pits. All four of the drivers are going to have to be at on the top of their game and the pit crews also.
Personally, I don’t think the final four drivers have ever been this closely matched going into the Cup Championship race and I believe this will be one of the most intense and dramatic Cup Championship races in the history of the playoffs. Of course, there is always the possibility one of them pulls off a dominant performance and simply runs away with it. I don’t think that will happen, but if it does, I certainly hope we’re not all bored to tears waiting for the end to come…
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© November 6 , 2021 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
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All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated