By Bob Pockrass
FOX Sports activities NASCAR Author
The primary spherical of the NASCAR Cup Sequence playoffs is certainly a don’t-beat-yourself kind of spherical.
The second spherical carries an identical theme, however solely to a sure extent. And it is solely as a result of two of the three races are recognized for his or her unpredictability. In actuality, it is extra of a survive-and-advance kind of spherical.
NASCAR’s “Spherical of 12” is its model of the quarterfinal spherical. It opens Sunday in Texas Motor Speedway, which beforehand had been within the third (semifinal) spherical. The ultimate two races of the three-race spherical are the identical as in earlier years, with Talladega Superspeedway (Oct. 2) and the Charlotte highway course (Oct. 9).
Looking forward to the second spherical
Bob Pockrass breaks down the spherical of 16 and takes a have a look at what the following spherical of the NASCAR Cup Sequence playoffs appear like.
Talladega and its sister observe, Daytona, are recognized for high-speed drafting in huge packs that are likely to create large multi-car wrecks. The Charlotte highway course (generally referred to as the “Roval” due to its use of each the oval and a highway course within the infield) is very similar to different highway programs on the Cup schedule — it’s simple to get spun or collected in an incident and have a top-five day flip right into a Thirtieth-place day within the closing laps.
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“It is a bizarre bunch of tracks, so I do not know,” stated defending Cup champion Kyle Larson. “Hopefully Texas will go good and Talladega we will get some breaks… Often superspeedways aren’t good for me. So we’ll see.
“The Roval, I feel we will likely be actually good at. Simply maintain working onerous and hopefully get by way of this spherical.”
No driver can really feel secure, however the important thing will likely be having a cushion following Texas after which being one of many playoff drivers operating on the end at Talladega. It might be nice, clearly, to win and never fear about factors, because the 4 winless drivers with the fewest factors within the spherical are eradicated after the Charlotte highway course.
“There could be no higher place than Texas (to win) as a result of that is going to be an important race,” stated Christopher Bell, who earned probably the most factors of any playoff driver within the first spherical.
The seeding and factors differential from the cutoff at the beginning of the spherical are set by the playoff factors that drivers have earned within the first 29 races — 5 playoff factors per race win, one playoff level for every stage win after which playoff factors awarded to the top-10 within the regular-season standings on a 15-10-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 scale.
That is how they sit heading into the spherical, with slightly little bit of an outlook on every.
Chase Elliott (Seed 1, +31 on cutoff): Elliott entered the primary spherical 33 factors forward of the cutoff and completed 53 factors up regardless of having one dangerous race, one mediocre race and one excellent race. Elliott has two top-10s in superspeedway (Daytona and Talladega) races this yr. If it comes all the way down to the Charlotte highway course, Elliott has seven profession road-course wins. He would not have any in 5 road-course races this yr, however was second at Street America and fourth at Watkins Glen, the place he was battling for the win earlier than a tangle with Larson. The Hendrick Motorsports driver, the 2020 Cup champion, was concerned in an accident on the all-star race at Texas, the one occasion at Texas up to now this season.
Joey Logan (Seed 2, +18): Logano is aware of about survive and advance. I’ve retired early from Bristol and nonetheless superior by being 33 factors forward of the cutoff. Logano hasn’t completed on the lead lap of any superspeedway race this yr, so he hopes his luck turns round at Talladega. He additionally hasn’t had a lot pleasure on highway programs this yr, however he was third at Watkins Glen. The Crew Penske driver, the 2018 Cup champion, was fourth on the all-star race, so introduced on Texas.
No Errors. No Wrecks
Ross Chastain (Seed 3, +11): Chastain did what he needed to do within the first spherical, advancing with 49 factors to spare. Do we have to remind anybody that Chastain’s two victories this yr got here at Talladega and the highway course at Circuit of the Americas? That ought to give him some confidence going into this spherical, though he has completed within the 20s within the final two road-course occasions. The Trackhouse driver was concerned in an accident within the all-star race.
Kyle Larson (Seed 4, +10): The defending Cup champ considerably cruised by way of the primary spherical, advancing at 50 factors forward of the cutoff. Larson wrecked in each Daytona races however was fourth at Talladega, which could give him slightly confidence for that race. He received the newest road-course race at Watkins Glen and was third at Street America. The Hendrick driver was concerned in an accident on the all-star race.
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William Byron (Seed 5, +6): Byron was strong within the first spherical, advancing with 71 factors to spare. This spherical won’t be so easy. Byron would not have a top-10 within the three superspeedway races. His finest road-course end this yr was ninth. He was eleventh within the all-star race at a time when Hendrick wasn’t sturdy on intermediates. He might want to present how a lot enchancment they’ve made at Texas, or it may very well be a tough spherical.
Denny Hamlin (Seed 6, +4): Hamlin opened the playoffs with back-to-back second-place finishes and superior with 58 factors to spare. He has 5 profession superspeedway wins, however they have not been sort to him this yr. The Toyotas additionally struggled on highway programs, and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Hamlin is not any exception with no top-10s. He was second within the all-star race at Texas, which seems to be the place the place Hamlin should carry out to be ok with his probabilities to advance.
Christopher Bell (Seed 7, +4): Bell had the most effective first spherical of any driver as he clinched a spot on factors after two races and completed 93 factors forward of the cutoff. Bell hasn’t completed on the lead lap of any superspeedway race this yr, so he’ll want to show round his luck at Talladega. He has two top-10s at highway programs this yr, so he might want to have a strong day on the highway course. The JGR driver was mediocre (tenth) within the all-star race at Texas.
Christopher Bell: No higher place than Texas to win
Christopher Bell got here up quick at Bristol however he is trying ahead to Texas. Bell: “There could be no higher place than Texas (to win) as a result of that is going to be an important race.”
Ryan Blaney (Seed 8, +4): Blaney had an terrible Bristol and needed to sweat it out operating 160 laps down till different playoff drivers had bother. The Crew Penske driver nonetheless made it by 26 factors. This spherical may very well be higher for Blaney. He received the all-star race at Texas. He has three profession superspeedway wins and likewise has received on the Charlotte highway course in his profession. He has two top-10s within the 5 highway programs this yr.
No Factors Left On Desk
Chase Briscoe (Seed 9, -4 on cutoff): Briscoe was the largest shock at Bristol, as he went from 9 factors out of the playoffs to ending 14 factors forward of the minimize. Briscoe was third within the Daytona 500, however he crashed out within the different two superspeedway races. His finest end on the highway programs this yr is thirteenth, so if he has to get it performed on the Charlotte highway course, that may very well be an issue. So he must have race at Texas, the place he was not good within the all-star race (he completed 18th out of 24). One factor he may need going for him — he’s the one Stewart-Haas Racing driver left within the playoffs, which suggests the complete vitality of the group will concentrate on his automobile.
alex bowman (Seed 10, -6): It’s a little shocking to see Bowman this low contemplating how effectively he raced at Darlington and Kansas within the first spherical. He made this spherical by 28 factors regardless of dropping out of Bristol early after being caught up in an accident. He has one top-10 end within the three superspeedway races this yr. The Hendrick driver was second at COTA, however that was his solely top-10 on a highway course this yr. He was sixth within the all-star race. All these outcomes ought to shock nobody since he has been inconsistent this yr. But when he has the consistency he had within the first two races of the opening spherical, he’ll be wonderful.
Daniel Suarez (Seed. 11, -6): Suarez barely bought into the second spherical as he managed to crash at Bristol (taking out Austin Dillon and impacting Tyler Reddick, each of whom had been finally eradicated) and completed a number of laps down however with seven factors to spare. He would not have a top-10 at a superspeedway race this yr. He does have a road-course win at Sonoma and top-5s at Street America and Watkins Glen. So far as Texas, the Trackhouse driver was good throughout all-star weekend, successful the ultimate stage of the open to advance after which ending fifth in the primary occasion. So return to Texas will likely be key.
austin cindric (Seed 12, -7): Cindric fought tire points at Bristol however superior by a mere two factors, giving the Crew Penske rookie a little bit of a brand new life on this spherical. And it may very well be spherical for him with Talladega and the Charlotte highway course. He received the Daytona 500 and was third there in July, so he has potential at Talladega. He has two top-5s and two top-10s in his 5 road-course begins this yr. Cindric was a good seventh within the all-star race.
Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports activities. He has spent a long time 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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