From a NASCAR Fan’s View
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It’s another Saturday night under the lights for playoff race number two and it’s at Richmond Raceway. After last week’s race at Darlington, this one at Richmond becomes even more stressful than last week at “the Track Too Tough To Tame.” Richmond Raceway is another that has a descriptive term it has acquired over the years. It is called “The Action Track.” We can only wait and see how much “Action” happens there tonight and see if the playoff picture gets another shake up.
I guess it was inevitable that Denny Hamlin would win a race this season and it came at the right time for him. He can basically relax a bit while the rest of the round of sixteen qualifiers have to maintain their place in the top twelve or make up as much ground as they can from their weak performances from last weekend. Last weekend’s race was devastating for several and challenging for others. Not all of what went on was because of preparation problems. Some was just bad luck and being in the right place at the wrong time. From my view, the Hendrick cars got the worst of it except for Kyle Larson. He starts on the pole tonight.
If there can be anything picked up from last week’s race, I would say the race for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Championship is still pretty much between the two that were battling for the regular season Championship. You already know Denny Hamlin finished first and Kyle Larson finished second last weekend and you know it went right down to the end. The two of them sit fairly comfortably at the top with good points margins. The rest of the top sixteen have some work to do.
There is one thing to keep in perspective. Last weekend at Darlington was only the first race of the first round of the nine playoff races before the final four race for the Championship. There are already four drivers in trouble for making it to the next round only two races away. They head into this race tonight with a little more pressure on them than the others.
Michael McDowell is in the worst place of the sixteen and just about needs to win to even think about making it to the round of twelve. Now don’t get me wrong… I’m not saying there’s no way he can make it to the next round, especially after the way last week went for several of the contenders; I’m just saying he either needs to win or get a lot of help from other contenders having trouble like he and others did at Darlington.
The next one in doubt is Kyle Bush. He was definitely not in a good place after his run-in with Austin Dillon and the wall. As was made clear in his assessments after the incidents that put him out, he was very unhappy with the way his car was running and didn’t appear to have much of a positive outlook for his own advancement to the next round. Of course, that doesn’t mean a lot at the moment and it does remain to be seen how he might rebound from that original setback in the first race of this first round in the playoffs. If they can’t give him a car he is comfortable with, I don’t think this will be his year to move much further forward. But, we all know this is Kyle Bush we’re talking about and he can, and probably will, shake it off and maybe even win this weekend. Wouldn’t that change things up more than a little?
I guess Martin Truex Jr. would be the next one to look at for a possible winner at Richmond tonight. Afterall, he looked like he had a good chance of winning last weekend except for that late pit lane speeding penalty. It does seem to this fan that he has had his setbacks often this season but Richmond Raceway is definitely a track he can win at.
Alex Bowman, William Byron and, yes, even Chase Elliott have a lot of ground to make up after their problems last weekend. It seemed that the Hendrick teams had fast cars and I don’t expect that to change very much tonight at Richmond. All three of these drivers need to have good runs tonight and I’m sure winning is on all their minds and, in particular, William Byron. Most of what happened to him was not of his doing. To use an oft quoted phrase, that old nemesis called “racing luck” did raise its head on him at least twice last weekend. He and Alex Bowman both have a lot of ground to make up.
I don’t know if it’s just me or if you noticed it, too. It seemed to me that just about anything that could go wrong, did go wrong for many of those contending to move on to the next round. It also seemed that the ones considered to be underdogs had a lot of things go their way. I know that may sound a bit strange but it did (and does) seem that way to me. Well, I mean except for those two guys at the front, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson. I reckon they will be hoping they’re not the ones having to face down the “racing luck” beast tonight.
I don’t know but, it sure seems to this fan that the shaking up in the standings for the playoffs isn’t over yet. If things continue as they have so far in this latter part of the 2021 season and Richmond being Richmond, it’s anyone’s guess what the round of twelve will look like in two weeks. We know Denny is in and it is a pretty good bet Kyle Larson will be too. That leaves a whole lot of room for a whole lot of shaking to go on – or not…
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 11, 2021 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
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