NASCAR spoilers: Who will shock in second spherical of playoffs?

By Bob Pockrass
FOX Sports activities NASCAR Author

With the primary three playoff races gained by non-playoff drivers, followers can anticipate that development would possibly proceed into the NASCAR Cup Sequence second spherical.

The Spherical of 12, which some would name the “quarterfinal spherical,” options two tracks that many would take into account unpredictable, as Talladega Superspeedway and the Charlotte Motor Speedway street course observe this weekend’s round-opening race at Texas Motor Speedway.

The three new winners to open the playoffs elevated the variety of 2022 winners to 19, typing a single-season Cup document with seven races left within the season. Six drivers who gained in 2021 have but to win this yr, the primary season with the Subsequent Gen automobile and groups buying chassis, physique panels and nearly all of components and items from a single-source vendor to assemble the vehicles, reasonably than manufacturing components and items themselves.

“We anticipated this yr to simply be very unpredictable and nobody actually having the ability to determine this automobile out,” former Cup champion Joey Logano stated. “And it actually looks as if there are nonetheless so many questions. … Can there be one other first-time winner? Completely.

“There are a pair drivers which might be anticipated to win yearly that have not gained but, so you have to suppose that they are most likely going to bust off a win sooner or later, however you simply do not know. “

Joey Logano on the unpredictable NASCAR season

Joey Logano, talking earlier than the Bristol race, stated the unpredictable nature of the Subsequent Gen automobile is what accounts for the variety of non-playoff drivers profitable races.

So who’s subsequent?

Contemplating that the 4 drivers eradicated from the playoffs after the primary spherical — Kevin Harvick, Tyler Reddick, Austin Dillon and Kyle Busch — have all gained this yr, it would not be a giant shock to see any of them win over the subsequent three roots.

Busch gained at Texas in 2020 when it was a semi-round race and he had already been eradicated. Dillon gained the latest drafting superspeedway race at Daytona, so it would not be stunning in any respect to see him win Talladega. And Reddick has two road-course wins this yr (Highway America and the Indianapolis street course), so it would not be a shock to see him seize the win at Charlotte.

However there are additionally drivers who have not gained this yr and did not make the playoffs who’re threats to win. The primary one is Martin Truex Jr., among the best drivers week in and week out and the winner of 29 races the earlier seven seasons.

Brad Keselowski may’ve triumphed at Bristol if he hadn’t had a tire go flat whereas he was main the race finally gained by his RFK Racing driver, Chris Buescher. Keselowski’s finest guess he is perhaps Talladega, as he has been among the best superspeedway racers lately.

Additionally on that record of finest superspeedway racers can be Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who’s on the lookout for 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 have been robust sufficient on the superspeedways and in current intermediate occasions to be thought-about threats the subsequent two weeks.

Alex Bowman on non-playoff drivers profitable playoff races

Alex Bowman on non-playoff drivers winning playoff races

Alex Bowman says the dynamic of getting non-playoff drivers win in a playoff spherical does not affect how he approaches a weekend.

The drivers within the playoffs know that extra non-playoff winners are doable. It is simply the character of the Subsequent Gen automobile, with the parity it has created in addition to what has seemingly been a sturdiness difficulty with components the previous a number of weeks.

“It comes right down to setups,” stated Logano, indicating that the single-source distributors have created extra parity. “We’re all taking part in with the identical deck of playing cards once we begin, and it is simply the way you play that hand.

“It varies from monitor to trace. … It is exhausting to have only a clear benefit stepping into to the place you possibly can miss your setup a bit bit and nonetheless be fairly good. That is the way it’s been previously.”

Logano and a number of other different playoff drivers have stated that non-playoff drivers profitable does not affect their technique a lot, although it might probably change the dynamic given {that a} playoff driver who wins mechanically advances to the subsequent spherical.

“I do not know if it modifications the way in which you undergo the playoffs,” Logano stated. “You are still targeted in on simply maximizing the day. If that is a win or if that is a fifth, you simply must get probably the most factors you possibly can probably get, and I do not suppose that modifications from yr to yr.”

Ryan Blaney on non-playoff drivers profitable playoff races

Ryan Blaney on non-playoff drivers winning playoff races

Ryan Blaney, who hasn’t gained this yr, explains why he is not shocked to see non-playoff drivers profitable within the playoffs this season.

Ryan Blaney is the one driver who made the playoffs however hasn’t gained this yr. Now among the many closing 12, he’s nonetheless winless.

“I did not suppose [the parity] would actually change loads within the playoffs,” he stated.

“I nonetheless suppose you’d have [those] who weren’t in it who may exit and win. That is been the case all yr.”

Blaney stated that seeing a non-playoff driver win is clearly higher than seeing a playoff competitor win as a result of which means one other spot is out there on factors within the subsequent spherical. The 4 winless drivers within the spherical with the fewest factors are eradicated after every three-race postseason spherical.

“You are still racing the sphere,” Blaney stated. “It is like two separate races: You are racing all people on the market, however you are additionally racing the playoff guys.”

AJ Allmendinger on racing playoff drivers

AJ Allmendinger on racing playoff drivers

AJ Allmendinger can be one of many favorites within the Charlotte street course race on Oct. 9. As a non-playoff driver, he explains his mentality coming into playoff races.

On this second spherical, one driver who will not be racing till Charlotte is AJ Allmendinger. The total-time Xfinity driver and former Cup common can be one of many favorites at that race, because of his road-racing capabilities.

“I’ve at all times had the mindset that after I’m not within the playoffs … I do not wish to be overly aggressive on these vehicles which might be within the playoffs,” Allmendinger stated.

“On the finish of the day, they’ve extra to lose than I do. I do not wish to be the man that wrecks anyone’s playoffs, however particularly if we now have a shot to win the race, I will do no matter it takes.”

Normally, nobody appears to know for certain how this subsequent spherical will play out relating to those that have already gained and people on the lookout for their first win.

“With Subsequent Gen, anyone wins one week and runs thirtieth the subsequent,” Keselowski stated. “I might like to sit down right here and inform you, ‘Yeah, we’re going subsequent week to Texas, and we’ll lead each lap and win the race.’

“However as you possibly can inform, it is not that straightforward.”

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What to look at for

NASCAR goes to put the resin at Texas in the identical spots within the turns as within the spring … and extra. It has been placing the resin within the center groove at Texas, and it’ll add the resin to the higher groove.

The thought is just not that drivers are going to race up there however reasonably to assist drivers doubtlessly “catch” the automobile. Beforehand, when a automobile would go from the handled space to the non-treated space, it was like spinning on ice.

The hope is that with the extra grip, a driver would possibly be capable of keep away from hitting the wall. For drivers within the playoffs, that could possibly be a giant, huge deal.

pondering out loud

It is the NASCAR Xfinity Sequence playoffs’ opening weekend, so how about some predictions?

Advancing out of the Spherical of 12: Noah Gragson, Ty Gibbs, Justin Allgaier, AJ Allmendinger, Josh Berry, Austin Hill, Brandon Jones and Sam Mayer.

Eradicated: Jeremy Clements, Daniel Hemric, Riley Herbst and Ryan Sieg.

Advancing out of the semifinal spherical to the championship: Gragson, Gibbs, Allgaier and Berry. With Martinsville because the cutoff race, that appears to favor Berry over Allmendinger.

Champion: Allgaier. He is so strong at Phoenix (sure, I do know Gragson gained there earlier this yr).

social highlight

they stated it

“I am flabbergasted. I simply really feel so dangerous for my guys. They do not should be on this spot.” — Kyle Busch after an engine failure at Bristol resulted in a failure to advance to the second spherical

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports activities. He has spent many years protecting motorsports, together with the previous 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting Information, NASCAR Scene journal and The (Daytona Seashore) Information-Journal. Comply with him on Twitter @bobpockrassand join the FOX Sports activities NASCAR Publication with Bob Pockrass.

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