What’s your career high of Martinsville hot dogs in a weekend?
Nate Ryan: Maybe one or two? It’s been roughly 18 years since I consumed one. My career high of turkey sandwiches from the Sheetz near the 58/220 intersection is about six, though.
Dustin Long: One. Not my thing.
Daniel McFadin: In my four visits I’ve never had more than two in a race day.
Dan Beaver: I’m ashamed to say only two.
What percentage do you put it that the Big 3 all advance to the championship race in Miami?
Nate Ryan: More than 80 percent. Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch likely are safe on playoff points, and Martin Truex Jr. could either win at Texas or be consistent enough over the next three races to advance. The only scenario in which one of the trio won’t race for the championship involves two other playoff drivers winning in this round; Busch, Harvick and Truex will post the finishes to garner the necessary points.
Dustin Long: 95 percent. Forget recent struggles, they will be there in Miami racing for a championship.
Daniel McFadin: 60 percent. I think Martin Truex Jr. is going to be in danger once Phoenix rolls around. The 78 team has lost its fire over the last four races, despite finishing fifth in Kansas. Kyle Busch can be expected to be a threat in all three races and Harvick should be the man to beat at Texas and Phoenix, if he can keep from making mistakes.
Dan Beaver: 50 percent: One of the non-Big 3 will win a race in this round and that means Martin Truex Jr. is going to need to seriously improve his performance to advance.
What’s stood out to you so far with the Cup playoffs?
Nate Ryan: The emergence of Chase Elliott and the cohesiveness, the competitiveness of Stewart-Haas Racing and the lone win among Busch, Harvick and Truex. It’s difficult to pin down an overall narrative.
Dustin Long: There there have been no upsets or surprises so far in who has been eliminated. Even when Brad Keselowski won three in a row he was saying they needed more speed. They won by execution. Running out of fuel at Talladega hurt him and then they didn’t have the speed at Kansas to make up for all those lost points at Talladega. The strongest teams are left.
Daniel McFadin: The late-race success of teams that didn’t dominate in the regular season. Ryan Blaney and Aric Almirola each earned their first wins of the year in the playoffs and Chase Elliott earned wins No. 2 and 3. The competition has finally evened out, though some of that has been through help from late mistakes and cars running out of gas.
Dan Beaver: Chase Elliott with his pair of victories in Round 2. Along with his Watkins Glen win in August, he has won on three very distinct tracks.
What track in this round — Martinsville, Texas or Phoenix — do you think will have the most impact in the playoffs?
Nate Ryan: Phoenix because of the fresh layout and because the points scenarios always lend themselves to the Round of 8 cutoff race playing a major factor on the championship.
Dustin Long: Phoenix. Last chance to advance to Miami. Desperate times call for desperate actions.
Daniel McFadin: Martinsville. Teams will view it as the biggest equalizer in the round and with the possibility of a wild race, a non-playoff driver could win putting even more emphasis on the next two races for non-Big 3 drivers.
Dan Beaver: Every playoff driver will be trying to get off to a strong start at Martinsville and that will create some chaos.