From a NASCAR Fan’s View
As the playoffs kick off at Darlington, there has never been a season, at least in my memory, quite like this NASCAR season of 2022. What with the Next Gen car, all of the unknowns and the unexpected happenings with tires, pit stops and wrecks of all kinds, it’s just hard to determine which of the drivers and teams may have the upper hand as they start the round of sixteen. I think there are a couple of drivers that are confident of their chances here at the start but there is a lot of skepticism for most of them. It’s like their wanting to get this first race under their belts before they want to commit to any hard facts about their chances.
I think there is another reason it gets complicated. That is because, even though there are sixteen drivers competing for the Championship and able to win this first race, all of the drivers in the field are there to win every weekend whether they are in the playoffs or not. With the state of the competition with the Next Gen cars, there are a lot of possible winners almost every week. From my view, that makes everything a bit more complicated, don’t you think?
I mean just look at the ones that didn’t quite make the cut. There’s Martin Truex Jr. that missed the cut by just three points. Since he almost made it in by points and no wins, it is possible he could go on a tear and win several races during the playoffs. Should that happen, it could make the first round even more interesting than it might be anyway.
Hey, Truex Jr. is only one of the possible non-playoff winners. There are a bunch of drivers with cars that are competitive enough to win one or more of the playoff races. Shucks, there’s Chris Buescher, Aric Almirola, Erik Jones, Ricky Stenhouse, Cole Custer and Brad Keselowski. Need I go on? Okay, I will name at least one more. It is even possible that Ty Gibbs could take a win. It is just so difficult to pick one out of all the possible winners.
Even though I hardly ever put a lot of stock in qualifying, it is awfully hard to overlook the speed of Joey Logano this weekend. He had the fastest time in qualifying and did win the pole. He also made a clean sweep of the poles for this year at Darlington since he also won the pole in the spring. As long as he is out front, he may be hard to beat this weekend and he could very well dominate the race.
Since this is the playoffs and a lot of strategy goes into the mix, it is also possible that he may not be around at the end to take the checkered flag. I’m not saying he will have mechanical problems or anything like that; I’m just saying, much like most of the other races this season, “it ain’t over till it’s over” and he may not be leading when it comes down to the final checkered flag. Sometimes it has more to do with luck and timing than having the fastest car.
It does appear the Fords have shown up with some speed this weekend. There are four of them starting in the top ten and others that are likely not going to be happy just running in the middle of the pack. I can think of three right off and that would be Kevin Harvick, Aric Almirola and Chase Briscoe. Any of these three could make their way to the front and win the Cook Out Southern 500.
Two of the Hendrick cars qualified in the top ten and that is William Byron and Kyle Larson. The surprise from the Hendrick camp was Chase Elliott. He qualified twenty-third and didn’t even brush the wall like his teammate Alex Bowman and Alex qualified sixteenth. Now I’m not going to make any negative statements about how that looks for the NASCAR regular Cup season champ. I am almost willing to bet that he and crew chief Alan Gustafson can and will make the necessary adjustments to put them in contention to be at or near the front at the end.
Christopher Bell and Kyle Bush both qualified in the top five and either of them could have an impact at the end of the night. The same goes for Tyler Reddick and Austin Dillon even though Dillon did qualify in thirteenth. Another possible winner (without naming everybody, of course) is Austin Cindric.
Like I said, there are a lot of drivers that could win this one and some are in the playoffs and some are not. There are a lot of fast cars and there is always the possibility of something going wrong or a driver or crew making an error on pit road. After all, this is a 500 mile race and just about anything that can go wrong, could and likely will…
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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