By Bob Pockrass
FOX Sports NASCAR Writer
With the primary 3 playoff races gained via non-playoff drivers, enthusiasts can look ahead to that development may proceed into the NASCAR Cup Series second round.
The Round of 12, which some would name the “quarterfinal round,” options two tracks that many would imagine unpredictable, as Talladega Superspeedway and the Charlotte Motor Speedway avenue route observe this weekend’s round-opening race at Texas Motor Speedway.
The 3 new winners to open the playoffs higher the quantity of 2022 winners to 19, tying a single-season Cup document with seven races left in the season. Six drivers who gained in 2021 haven’t begun to win this 12 months, the primary season with the Next Gen automobile and groups buying chassis, frame panels and the bulk of portions and items from a single-source supplier to gather the vehicles, quite than production portions and items themselves.
“We expected this year to just be very unpredictable and no one really being able to figure this car out,” former Cup champion Joey Logano stated. “And it really seems like there are still so many questions. … Can there be another first-time winner? Absolutely.
“There are a pair drivers which can be anticipated to win yearly that haven’t gained but, so that you’ve were given to suppose that they’re almost certainly going to bust off a win someday, however you simply don’t know.”
Joey Logano at the unpredictable NASCAR season
Joey Logano, talking earlier than the Bristol race, stated the unpredictable nature of the Next Gen automobile is what accounts for the quantity of non-playoff drivers successful races.
So who’s subsequent?
Considering that the 4 drivers eradicated from the playoffs after the primary round — Kevin Harvick, Tyler Reddick, Austin Dillon and Kyle Busch — have all gained this 12 months, it wouldn’t be a large surprise to peer any of them win over the following 3 races.
Busch gained at Texas in 2020 when it used to be a semifinal-round race and he had already been eradicated. Dillon gained the latest drafting superspeedway race at Daytona, so it wouldn’t be sudden in any respect to peer him win Talladega. And Reddick has two road-course wins this 12 months (Road America and the Indianapolis avenue route), so it wouldn’t be a surprise to peer him seize the win at Charlotte.
But there also are drivers who haven’t gained this 12 months and didn’t make the playoffs who’re threats to win. The first one is Martin Truex Jr., one of the most efficient drivers week in and week out and the winner of 29 races the former seven seasons.
Brad Keselowski may just’ve triumphed at Bristol if he hadn’t had a tire move flat whilst he used to be main the race in the end gained via his RFK Racing driving force, Chris Buescher. Keselowski’s best possible guess could be Talladega, as he has been one of the most efficient superspeedway racers in contemporary years.
Also on that checklist of best possible superspeedway racers can be Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who’s in search of his first win, in addition to 2021 Daytona 500 winner Michael McDowell and 2018 Talladega winner Aric Almirola.
Erik Jones (Darlington winner to open the playoffs) and Bubba Wallace (Kansas winner the next week) each were sturdy sufficient on the superspeedways and in contemporary intermediate occasions to be regarded as threats the following two weeks.
Alex Bowman on non-playoff drivers successful playoff races
Alex Bowman says the dynamic of having non-playoff drivers win in a playoff round doesn’t have an effect on how he approaches a weekend.
The drivers in the playoffs know that extra non-playoff winners are conceivable. It’s simply the character of the Next Gen automobile, with the parity it has created in addition to what apparently has been a sturdiness factor with portions the previous a number of weeks.
“It comes down to setups,” stated Logano, indicating that the single-source distributors have created extra parity. “We’re all playing with the same deck of cards when we start, and it’s just how you play that hand.
“It varies from observe to trace. … It’s laborious to have only a transparent benefit going in to the place you’ll leave out your setup a little bit bit and nonetheless be beautiful excellent. That’s the way it’s been in the previous.”
Logano and several other playoff drivers have said that non-playoff drivers winning doesn’t impact their strategy much, though it can change the dynamic given that a playoff driver who wins automatically advances to the next round.
“I don’t know if it adjustments the best way you move in the course of the playoffs,” Logano said. “You’re nonetheless targeted in on simply maximizing the day. If that’s a win or if that’s a 5th, you simply must get essentially the most issues you’ll most likely get, and I don’t suppose that adjustments from 12 months to 12 months.”
Ryan Blaney on non-playoff drivers winning playoff races
Ryan Blaney, who hasn’t gained this 12 months, explains why he isn’t shocked to peer non-playoff drivers successful in the playoffs this season.
Ryan Blaney is the one driving force who made the playoffs however hasn’t gained this 12 months. Now a few of the ultimate 12, he’s nonetheless winless.
“I didn’t think [the parity] would really change much in the playoffs,” he stated.
“I still thought you’d have [those] who weren’t in it who could go out and win. That’s been the case all year.”
Blaney stated that seeing a non-playoff driving force win is clearly higher than seeing a playoff competitor win as a result of that implies any other spot is to be had on issues in the following round. The 4 drivers winless in the round with the fewest issues are eradicated after every three-race postseason round.
“You’re still racing the field,” Blaney stated. “It’s like two separate races: You’re racing everybody out there, but you’re also racing the playoff guys.”
AJ Allmendinger on racing playoff drivers
AJ Allmendinger will be one of the favorites in the Charlotte avenue route race on Oct. 9. As a non-playoff driving force, he explains his mentality coming into playoff races.
In this second round, one driving force who gained’t be racing till Charlotte is AJ Allmendinger. The full-time Xfinity driving force and previous Cup common will be one of the favorites at that race, because of his road-racing functions.
“I’ve always had the mindset that when I’m not in the playoffs … I don’t want to be overly aggressive on those cars that are in the playoffs,” Allmendinger stated.
“At the end of the day, they have more to lose than I do. I don’t want to be the guy that wrecks somebody’s playoffs, but especially if we have a shot to win the race, I’m going to do whatever it takes.”
In basic, nobody turns out to understand needless to say how this subsequent round will play out with regards to those that have already gained and the ones in search of their first win.
“With Next Gen, somebody wins one week and runs 30th the next,” Keselowski stated. “I’d like to sit here and tell you, ‘Yeah, we’re going next week to Texas, and we’re going to lead every lap and win the race.’
“But as you’ll inform, it isn’t that easy.”
What to stay up for
NASCAR is going to place the resin at Texas in the same spots in the turns as in the spring … and more. It has been putting the resin in the middle groove at Texas, and it will add the resin to the upper groove.
The idea is not that drivers are going to race up there but rather to help drivers potentially “catch” the car. Previously, when a car would go from the treated area to the non-treated area, it was like spinning on ice.
The hope is that with the additional grip, a driver might be able to avoid hitting the wall. For drivers in the playoffs, that could be a big, big deal.
Thinking out loud
It’s the NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs’ opening weekend, so how about some predictions?
Advancing out of the semifinal round to the championship: Gragson, Gibbs, Allgaier and Berry. With Martinsville as the cutoff race, that seems to favor Berry over Allmendinger.
Champion: Allgaier. He’s so solid at Phoenix (yes, I know Gragson won there earlier this year).
They stated it
“I’m flabbergasted. I simply really feel so dangerous for my guys. They don’t should be in this spot.” — Kyle Busch after an engine failure at Bristol resulted in a failure to advance to the second round
Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass, and join the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass.
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