From a NASCAR Fan’s View
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Well… It’s that time again. You know, that time when four drivers will be eliminated from moving on to the Round of Eight. Yeah, you know the Roval is an elimination race and the pressure is on more than just the four that are already below the cutline. Denny Hamlin is the only one, at the moment, that really has very little to pressure him but, the rest of the twelve may have to do more than worry. With the points as close as they are, having a bad race at the Roval just about guarantees a driver will feel the pressure to perform from the first to the last lap. With all that going on, it is just about a guarantee that anything can and probably will happen, especially the unexpected.
When I look at the Roval, I think of how the playoffs have not been good for Kyle Larson. After having a strong start and finish to the regular season, it seems to this fan the old nemesis called “Racing Luck” has turned its heavy hand against the regular season champ. Even though he has had a fast racecar, things have happened to him that haven’t always been his fault. At one time, he was the crowd favorite to be the one all the others would be facing off with in the Final four for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Championship. He had plenty of stage points and five wins going into the playoffs and it appeared hardly anyone could touch him. Now, he is one point ahead of Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin has been outperforming the driver of the Hendrick Motorsports number five.
Without going into any in depth study of the details in comparing Denny Hamlin’s and Kyle Larson’s 2021 seasons, from my view it appears the roles have kinda reversed between the two. Early in the season, Denny Hamlin was probably one of the top performers and yet he went the whole regular season without a win. He was showing up with a fast racecar, the leading in points and it appeared he was going to not only be regular season champ but possibly the 2021 Cup Champ. It seemed no matter how well he ran, something always happened to keep him from Victory Lane. Then Kyle Larson began to take control of the season and had multiple wins, closed the points gap and ended up as the regular season champ, beating out Denny at the end of the regular season.
Now that the playoffs have started, Kyle Larson and Denny Hamlin show up to the races and often are considered to be the ones to beat. The difference being, Denny has won the opening race of the Round of Sixteen and the Round of Twelve and definitely will be moving on to the Round of Eight while Kyle seems to be struggling, has watched his huge points lead diminish and, I can’t believe I’m saying this, could miss moving on to the Round of Eight. Of course, that would be difficult indeed but, a bad day at the Roval could keep the top performer of the season from making it to the next round and possibly even the Final Four. As shocking as that may sound, it has to be considered judging from the happenings of the last two weeks. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying he is in a must win situation, but he does have to have a solid day and good finish.
When it comes to those that are in a must-win situation to advance, both William Byron and Alex Bowman fill all the boxes. Since only one of them can win, one of them is definitely not going to make it to the next round. Although I realize my opinion doesn’t matter all that much, I don’t think either of them are going to make the Round of Eight.
From this fan’s view, Christopher Bell would definitely be a long shot, dark horse to win. I’m not saying he can’t or won’t win, I’m just saying he is not at the top of my list as possible winners this weekend at the Roval.
The real place of contention is between three drivers namely, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Bush and Chase Elliott. Since Kyle and Chase are tied at the moment and Harvick trails by nine points, just about anything can happen if any one or all three have problems and a bad finish. With his record on Road Courses, Chase is the likely choice to stay above the cutline in my book but, others are good road racers, too, and that might affect the possibility of all three of these drivers’ chances of moving on.
Unfortunately, with the way things stand right now, I believe this will be one of the most intense, pressure packed and emotionally charged races of the season and definitely what the playoffs are all about. There is no room for mistakes by any of the teams or drivers, especially those on the bubble. Of course, as I mentioned earlier, Denny Hamlin has it made and probably won’t feel any pressure except the pressure he puts on himself to win at the Roval on Sunday afternoon. As for the rest of them…they have to be aggressive, they have to be tough should trying circumstances arise and, obviously, they have to run to win. If that doesn’t make for an afternoon of intense racing drama, I don’t know what will…
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 9, 2021 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
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