Ahhhh, Kansas… Kansas Speedway that is. A place that will definitely spell elimination for four drivers presently still in the playoffs and advancement for the other six still not qualified for the next round of three races. That would be the “Round of Eight” for those that may not be following the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series as closely as others. That means the final race for the Championship is coming fast and time is running out for those that hope to make it to the final four at Homestead in November.
From this fan’s view, Martin Truex Jr. looks to have an advantage over the rest of the field and his performance has been spectacular for most of the 2017 season. If I were to call the Cup series champion before the final race, I would certainly put Truex Jr. at the top of that list. After all, he has had top notch performance at the mile and a half tracks this season and he did win the pole for the Hollywood Casino 400 on Sunday afternoon.
As an added bonus, he gets first pick for pit stalls for next week’s race at Martinsville. As has been made very clear to us this weekend, the teams will still qualify next weekend at Martinsville but the pit selections will be based on the way they qualified this weekend. That is definitely an interesting twist to things but just tends to make things a bit more interesting. The number one pit stall at Martinsville is the most treasured one for that track and it could definitely give Truex Jr. an advantage next weekend whether he qualifies well or not. That could set him up for advancing to the race at Homestead for the Championship which, at least from this fan’s view, he is already one of the most likely candidates to be competing for the Monster energy NASCAR Cup Championship and it could be the first Championship of his career.
Unfortunately, I know fortunes can turn on a dime in NASCAR Cup racing and it would be a little premature for me to choose him as the Champion at this point. Still, he is a top choice for being in the final four and running for the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship.
The biggest thing about this weekend’s race at the Kansas Speedway it that it is the second elimination race of the 2017 playoffs. You can bet the focus during most of the race will be on the ones already below the cut line and those that could fall below the cut line. Only one can win and that could mean the worst of the top twelve could make it to the next “Round of Eight” by winning and the rest will have to have a really good day or they will be gone from the playoffs by Sunday evening.
Last weekend’s race at Talladega completely changed the alignment in the Round of Twelve and did put more pressure all of the ten teams not yet qualified for moving on to the next round to outperform their competitors. No matter how you look at it, this is going to be an intense race and desperation could cause some very interesting moves and strategies. The only two without pressure to perform this weekend would be Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski since both of them have won races in the last two weekends. That doesn’t mean much to the ten that need to be in the top eight by the end of the Hollywood Casino 400 but it does matter that they want to win and guarantee themselves a spot in the Round of Eight. As for the ones that don’t win, well… it is going to be one of the most stressful races so far this season and none of them can afford to have a bad day.
Once again, it appears the Hendrick Chevys are struggling to find speed if only qualifying is considered as a judgement of their performance. This is the first year in a while that this fan remembers them looking the way they look – and they do look like they are struggling – at least from this fan’s view. At least Chase Elliott and Jimmie Johnson were close to making it into the final round of qualifying but instead, they could only muster thirteenth and fifteenth between them. Of course after Ryan Blaney failed post qualifying inspection, they moved up a place to twelfth and fourteenth. That may help a little, but they both need to have a really, really good day on Sunday, especially Jimmie Johnson.
So it comes down to this; there are some that almost have no chance of advancing to the next round unless they win. Since only one of the 40 entries can win, that doesn’t offer much hope to those hoping to take one of the six spots remaining to move on to the next round. What it looks like form this fan’s view is that all of the ten need to finish at or very near to the front and let the cards fall as they may. Stage points are very important for this one and for some, winning and/or scoring a lot of points in the stages is the only hope they have to advance to the Round of Eight…
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 21, 2017 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
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