Podcast: Play in new window | Download
It is amazing how quickly things can change at times. After the race last weekend at Texas, two were in by winning. Now, only one is in by winning and one that appeared to be in by winning is now on the edge of not being able to make it to the finale at Homestead next weekend. I know, I know, you’ve already heard the story and why Kevin Harvick and the #4 team aren’t guaranteed a spot in the final four.
I’ve definitely heard of pressing the envelope but a question or two does come to mind about why? Why would the #4 team take such a chance at a rule infraction knowing how much success they’ve already had in this season? Didn’t they have confidence that what they’d been doing all season would carry them through? Of course, I’m just a fan and have never been in their shoes at such a level but it does seem like a big gamble to me. I don’t know, maybe they just thought they wouldn’t get caught.
It is no secret the format for the NASCAR series playoffs and Championship race has made for increased intensity and a, “Do whatever it takes to win” attitude. As best as this fan can remember, it has always been about winning. Now it seems the stakes are higher than ever and what someone will do to win has also become different. The ‘bump and run’ has always been there and leaning on someone’s door to get an advantage has too – as the old saying goes, “eight tires are better than four.” It just seems that both the bumping and leaning is harder than it used to be.
Hey, I used to race at our local short tracks and I understand what goes on inside the driver’s head when it comes down to the final laps and there is someone keeping you from winning. One of may favorite stories a racing friend told me years ago ended like this. First driver, “Hey! Why did you spin me out?” Second driver, “Look ‘cotton picker’, I tried you high and I tried you low and then, it was time for you to go…” So, I get it. Winning is what it’s all about and many will stop at nothing to do so. My biggest question is, Kevin Harvick and the #4 team have been a force to be reckoned with all season, why take such a big gamble with so much on the line? I just don’t have the answer to that particular question.
So, the race at Phoenix this weekend went from two guaranteed to be in because of winning races in the round of eight to one, Joey Logano. In usual NASCAR fashion, Kevin Harvick was allowed to keep his win but it couldn’t be used to guarantee his spot in the finale. He also lost points and is also only 3 points above the cut line for making it to Homestead as one of the final four. That means there are seven drivers and teams vying for the three remaining positions in the final four. Because of the decision made to the press the rules, he could be one of the four that doesn’t make the cut.
From this fan’s view there is one person other than Joey Logano that will likely make it in on points if he doesn’t win and that would be Kyle Bush. He has been fast even though he and his team have struggled a bit. Unless disaster strikes them, I do think he will be one of the final four. Martin Truex Jr. is in a precarious position and, after the way things have gone for him and his team over the last two weeks in particular, he does have his work cut out for him. The #78 teams cannot afford to have another bad day or this fan thinks their chances are shot to make the finale.
One that stands out as a possible dark horse would be Kurt Bush. He could win his way in but he is only three points below the cutline. If neither he or Harvick wins and Kurt outscores Kevin, well, I think you know how that story goes.
Chase Elliott has a good chance to make it in by points or by winning. The challenge for him is that he needs to get a lot of points in the stages and hopes that one of the others faulters or has trouble. That would make it easier for him but he is going to have to run up front all race long and hopefully win. If he is going to win, his biggest challenge is to beat Kevin Harvick. That may not be easy but he is capable and there is always the chance Harvick could have trouble. It has happened before this season.
The only way for Clint Bowyer or Aric Almirola to make it in is to win. I’m not saying one of them won’t but they do have a high mountain to climb.
One thing stands out to this fan. Although the playoff races have all had a higher level of intensity, this Sunday’s race is going to be about as intense as any we’ve ever seen. All of the challengers have already made it know they will do whatever it takes to win and that means the competition will be intense and emotion packed. Someone is going to win and four of the seven left will move on to the final four at Homestead. So, I leave you with the question in the title. One is in BUT who WILL win at Phoenix…?
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© November 10, 2018 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated