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The race at Darlington this weekend is about more than “The Track Too Tough To Tame.” It’s about four drivers that have been hovering around the cut line and their time is about to run out. Which one will it be? That is the question most seem to be asking. Some have already ruled out Jimmie Johnson continuing his streak of making the playoffs and, admittedly, he does have challenges ahead in the next two races if he is going to make it.
There are a lot of things about making the playoffs that are up in the air coming into the races this weekend and next. The four most likely to be contending are the ones everyone seems to be watching. Of course, just in case you are totally out of touch with the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, those four drivers presently contending are Ryan Newman, Daniel Suarez, Clint Bowyer and Jimmie Johnson. Their situation isn’t just with each other but there are others that can “shake up everything.”
Let’s not forget, this is “The Lady In Black”, the track “Too Tough To Tame” and just about anything can happen this weekend to shake up the standings, especially around the bubble area. As I mentioned, many have already written Jimmie Johnson’s epitaph as far as the playoff picture is concerned. This fan is not one of those but I do admit his chances are getting slimmer and slimmer.
Several weeks ago, Jimmie’s chances looked very good. He was in the top sixteen and looking to make the playoffs and keep his record intact. Then, it appears the bottom dropped out and things began to happen that caused his drop out of the top sixteen. Much of it was not his fault but, at this time in the season, it doesn’t matter who’s at fault. It only matters where you sit in the standings and he is not in a good spot. From this fan’s view, his best chance is to win at Darlington or Indianapolis. Otherwise, he is at the mercy of the way his luck has been running reversing or the luck of the ones he is trying to outpoint taking a dip to get into the top sixteen.
The surprise of the last several weeks, at least from this fan’s view, is Daniel Suarez. He has moved from being out to occupying the sixteenth spot in the standings. He has been performing well but, as can be the case with racing luck, his luck can turn into the same as Jimmie Johnson’s has been and he could drop like a rock completely out of the top sixteen. After all, he is only two points in as it stands right now. It won’t take much to knock him out and it definitely won’t take much for him to advance further up in the standings.
Clint Bowyer has been having pretty much the same luck as Jimmie Johnson over the last several races. He has gone from being in to being just out by two points. He is in a battle with his SHR teammate, Daniel Suarez, to make the cut and just hasn’t been able to catch a break even when others have struggled in past races. Something has always happened to keep him from gaining needed points to get into the top sixteen.
Of the four most involved in the battle for making the top sixteen, Ryan Newman is the one that has been the most consistent finisher. That’s not to say he has always had the most speed but he is consistently finishing ahead of the other three. Presently, he is only twelve points to the good and he needs to continue finishing ahead of the others or he, too, will drop out of the top sixteen and either need a win or take advantage of the possible misfortunes of the others.
No matter which way you look at it, these next two races should prove to be extremely interesting and stressful for these four drivers and teams. With such a tight points battle, this fan sees the drama and emotion to be highly elevated. Personally, I expect there could be some outbursts amongst these four and possibly others as the race progresses on Sunday evening. With this much at stake, I don’t see how it can be avoided, particularly if one of the four, or someone else in the lineup causes them to lose points or puts them out of contention completely for the playoffs.
With all of that being said, here is another scenario. Disaster can strike any one of those in the top sixteen and not locked in either by wins or points over these last two races of the regular season. That could cause any one or all of the four to move up in the standings as long as they have a good day points-wise.
But, what if there is an unexpected winner from the top twenty both at Darlington this weekend and/or next weekend at Indianapolis? That, my friends, is why the next two races are about more than just the four hovering around the bubble before the races start. If one of them wins, they’re in. If not, well…
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 31, 2019 – 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