From a NASCAR Fan’s View
The Round of Eight begins at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway today and there are a lot of reasons the top drivers want to win this one. First and most importantly, if one of the eight playoff drivers wins, they are immediately qualified for the Final Four and have extra time to prepare for the race at Phoenix for the Championship. That, by itself, means less stress for the other two races leading up to the Final Four. That doesn’t mean they won’t be driving to win when competing in the races at Homestead or Martinsville. It just means they won’t be penalized if they have a bad day at either of them.
It is my opinion that they won’t take a lackadaisical attitude even if they do win at Vegas because they will want to stay sharp and on their game all the way to Phoenix. To let up could spell disaster when they compete at Phoenix rather than them being at the peak of their game and ready to take on the field and win the Championship.
Once again this weekend, Christopher Bell snatched another pole for the playoffs and there are those that have already declared him the favorite to take the Championship when they hit the Phoenix track for the final four and the Championship. Personally, I say there is a long way to go before I’m willing to accept that as a possibility. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying he can’t or won’t end up being the favorite or the Champion. What I’m saying is, he has several hurdles to clear before he even gets close.
What I will say is, winning the pole isn’t a guarantee of winning this race or moving on the Final Four or even making it to the Final Four. Bell sat on the pole multiple times and, though he did run strong, he didn’t win. I would also point those that think he is poised to move on to the Final Four at Phoenix to look at the times he sat on the pole in the playoffs and didn’t win. I would also have them look at Tyler Reddick last weekend. He sat on the pole but didn’t win at the Roval.
I admit, the Toyotas have shown a lot of speed, especially in qualifying but, they haven’t always finished the job when it comes to winning. I think any of the drivers will tell you that winning a pole may be good for picking a pit stall. Pit stalls are important parts of the race and races can be won or lost in pit stops. They just don’t guarantee a win or even a good finish.
As I look at the starting lineup, it is hard to miss that there are four Toyotas starting in the top eight and three of them are still in the playoffs. I also look at the top three starters and see there are two Hendrick Chevys. Willian Byron starts third and could be the first one to move on to the Final Four by winning today’s race. The other HMS Chevy is Kyle Larson starting on the front row next to Bell. He didn’t lose the pole position to Bell by that much and I believe it’s possible he could be the first one to move into the Final Four by winning today.
Starting fourth is Martin Truex Jr. It is true that he could turn his whole playoff run around by having a good day or even winning at Vegas. He has had a rough start through the first two playoff rounds and is probably due for a good run if not a win but, his racing luck is going to have to take a big turn if that is to happen. Look… I’m not saying it won’t and he could walk away as the first to be in the Final Four but, well… let’s just say things don’t always turn around like they are needed to and sometimes bad racing luck hangs on for a while. I’ll just have to wait and see on his day at the races.
Although there are several strong and possible winners starting in the top eight, there are others further back that can’t be ruled out as ending up in Victory Lane. Ryan Blaney starts twelfth and Denny Hamlin starts fifteenth. They are both still in the hunt as far as the playoffs are concerned and either one of them could win today.
My biggest concern for today’s race is tires. They have already shown they could be a problem and I do believe it is possible a tire failure could be a possible deciding factor in winning and losing or even being able to move on to the Final Four. Anyway you look at it, the playoff drivers have their work cut out for themselves and none of them can really afford to have a bad day at the races. I admit, a few of them have a little bit more breathing room but…
Hey, this is Russ and that’s my view… 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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