From a NASCAR Fan’s View
Well… it’s time for the Round of Twelve to begin and it begins at Texas. This isn’t just another race weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, it is the beginning of even more pressure and intensity as the Cup playoff drivers try to establish themselves as contenders for the final four. Of course there are still six races to go before that happens but, a good day at Texas could be the beginning of making that happen and a win could shorten the trip even more.
I know it may not make a whole lot of difference for how the race will go today but, the starting lineup is a little bit different than I expected it to be. The three winners of races from the last round are starting tenth of worse and there are some playoff drivers mixed in with some non-playoff drivers and it could make it a very interesting day.
Is it possible the whole momentum of the run for the Championship could change starting at today’s race? Well, although it could, from this fan’s view I expect by the end of the race things just might look pretty much the same momentum-wise. What I mean is, qualifying seldom tells the whole story of how the race will go. It is definitely important for pit stall selections but it doesn’t tell much about the lap after lap changes or just how the long runs compare to the short ones.
You know as well as I do, top qualifiers can drop like rocks when the race starts or one little mistake on a pit stop can change a good day into a bad one really quickly. If you don’t think so, just look at Christopher Bell’s performance so far. He is the pole winner in the three Round of Sixteen races and his best finish was third and that was last weekend at Bristol. If qualifying on the pole was all that important most weekends, the finishing orders would be completely different. As it stands from this fan’s view, winning the pole is only part of the equation for finishing up front and taking a win. That’s not to say it never makes a difference but it usually doesn’t.
So, am I saying Bubba doesn’t have a chance of winning even though he is the pole winner? Nope, that’s not it at all. What I’m saying is winning the pole doesn’t guarantee that driver a win. A lot can happen in four hundred miles and that is the part that is hard to predict, especially at Texas Motor Speedway. He has a fast car, proven by his qualifying lap but there are lot of fast cars in the lineup.
Lining up with Bubba on the front row is Chris Buescher and he, along with his teammate Brad Keselowski starting third in Fords, have looked to be strong contenders for several weeks now. Ty Gibbs, also in a Toyota like Bubba, finishes out the starting top four and he has shown himself to be a contender for a win but he isn’t in playoffs. If he wins today, he would be the first non-playoff driver to mix things up for the Round of Twelve.
There is a mixture of playoff and non-playoff drivers starting in the top ten and any one of them could contend for the win today. If Ross Chastain takes it, it could change his trajectory in his quest to make the final four at Phoenix in November. Even though there is a long way to go before Phoenix, Ross can be a contender for moving on to the Round of Eight and beyond even without a win at Texas.
Even though there are those that surprised me, probably the ones that kind of surprised me most with their qualifying were the three winners of the Round of Sixteen races. Of course that would be Christopher Bell, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson. They qualified and will start ninth, tenth and eleventh. As a fan, I can’t really see them being happy with running anywhere but at the front contending for the win. Even though I don’t want to make any rash predictions this early in the playoffs, these are three drivers I expect to see in the final four, running for the Championship. Yeah, I realize it is early to be making any predictions, but still, that’s the way I’m thinking right now.
This is the beginning of probably one of the toughest, or the toughest, rounds in the playoffs. This could be one of the three toughest races in the playoffs and could say a lot about how the rest of the playoffs could pan out. Then again, in this round there could be three non-playoff drivers and teams that win and wouldn’t that shake things up for moving on for the next round? I mean, no playoff drivers with a win in the Round Of Twelve? Yeah, that’s something to think about as the season progresses isn’t it…
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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