The MENCS Playoffs Begin At Vegas from a NASCAR Fan’s View


Rusty Norman

OK, the regular season is done and the playoffs have begun. Well, that is, they will begin at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Sunday afternoon. Considering the way things have been going for the last couple of weeks, this could be an interesting start to the playoffs for 2018. I’m definitely not sure of how things will proceed but, from the looks of the way things have been so far it should be VERY interesting. With Eric Jones starting on the pole, well, that could just be the beginning of how interesting things could really get. I have to admit, this fan didn’t expect Eric would be the one sitting on the pole, though. I thought it more likely it would be some of the others with more experience and more points in the top 16 for the playoffs.

Now, you know I really hate to sound like a broken record but it does appear that the Chevys still have a ways to go and it remains to be seen just how competitive they might be throughout the playoffs. I have to say, at least from my view, that it looks like they may not make it past the first round or two of the playoffs. That’s disappointing when you’re such an avid Chevy fan as I am and it means that some of my favorite drivers I may not be able to root for throughout the whole process. Oh don’t worry, I’m not just a one brand fan and I like a lot of the drivers in the Cup series but, some of my favorite drivers drive Chevys and it has always been that way.

It does appear that the big three of Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. will do well at least in the early rounds of these playoffs because they still look to be running strong. Actually, with what’s going on with the Furniture Row camp, Martin Truex Jr. might be a little more “iffy” than he seemed to be a month or so ago. Of course, it doesn’t make much difference either positive or negative when I make that kind of statement considering that nothing is a given when it comes to NASCAR and, in particular, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. The fact is, anything can happen from the drop of the first green flag to the final checker throughout these next ten races. But I get ahead of myself…

It doesn’t matter how a team has performed up to this point. What matters is how they perform from this point on. I guess that’s what makes this such an interesting format for the race to the Championship. Even though some of them have the advantage of the playoff points they acquired from the regular season races, it doesn’t mean they won’t be beaten or surpassed by others during the playoffs that have the same desire to achieve the same ends – and that would be winning the championship.

I mean, let’s look at the facts. A couple of weeks ago hardly anyone would have believed you if you would have told them Brad Keselowski would have won two races so late in the season. Many had already written him off as one that wouldn’t be a factor in the playoffs. Not only did he win two but he won two of the Crown Jewels in the sport, Darlington and Indy. Personally, I wasn’t one of those people that had written him off but I also wasn’t one that expected him to make it all the way to the final four. I have watched Brad in his time in the Cup series and he has matured and grown and is one of the best drivers in the sport. I won’t say that I always agreed with his attitude but I can’t deny the fact that he knows how to drive a race car. Now he is one of the ones people look at as one of the possible final four in the finale at Homestead in November. I’m not so sure I’ll go that far yet, but I do have to admit he has looked very strong, especially the last couple of weeks in particular.

Over much of the season, one of the drivers that people looked at as almost a definite to be in the final four at Homestead was Kyle Larson. Unfortunately, he hasn’t looked as good as he did several weeks ago or at least leading up to several weeks ago. I do know that he’s quite capable of competing with the Big Three but I’m not sure that the Chevys are capable of competing on the same level as the Toyotas and Fords. Even though I am a big Chevy fan, I’m still not convinced they have the speed to compete on that same level and it could be a struggle for them to make it to the final round no matter who’s driving them. The same holds true for Chase Elliott. He drives a Hendrick Chevy and they have looked good over the last several weeks but the Chevys just haven’t seemed to be able to show up at the front at the right time to claim the victory.

One thing that makes me wonder of how things might go for the favorites in the top 16 is factors involved in the different tracks they face such as the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. We all know that the Las Vegas Motor Speedway is a tough track and it is also a rough track. One of the things they may have to face all day long is a car that may handle through the bumps down low but not as well when they aren’t in the bumps. Setting up a car to handle the bumps well does not mean that the same setup will work when they choose other grooves on the track. They may be able to run the low groove fast but if they have to move up, it may be totally different.

It is hard to say who may have the actual advantage for this race on Sunday afternoon but if I had to make a choice I would say Kevin Harvick would be my logical choice. Unfortunately, the Toyotas would be the ones that could make that a bad choice.

So, in closing I have one question (or maybe two.) Is it possible that the Hendrick Chevys have been sandbagging all this time and could suddenly show themselves as the ones to beat? Nah, I don’t think so… But… what if ??

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 15, 2018 – all rights reserved
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