The Gander Outdoors 400 at Dover International Speedway (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN) starts the Round of 12.
The playoff field will get whittled down to eight drivers after the Oct. 21 Kansas race. But there are three who head into the weekend below the cutoff line that NASCAR America analyst Parker Kligerman believes have momentum on their side.
Kyle Larson is seeded 10th in the standings, seven points behind the cutoff. Last week’s dramatic last lap at the Charlotte road course advanced him to Round 2 on a tiebreaker.
At Dover, Larson has seven top 10s and an 11th-place finish in nine starts. He has something even more important, according to Kligerman.
“There’s another really positive thing happening for this 42 car and that is the speed that Ganassi Racing team has brought into the playoffs – not only in the 42 car, but the 1 car of Jamie McMurray has shown a tremendous amount of speed,” Kligerman said.
Chase Elliott has been almost perfect at Dover. His first four starts on this track ended in top-five finishes, which gives him the right positive attitude needed to put himself in a position to advance.
“It’s kind of remarkable, is it not?” Kligerman asked. “What he has done at this race track is amazing how good he is there. … He came so close to winning this race last year and he let Kyle Busch get by him. … For this team, it’s similar to the 42: They have started to bring some serious speed into the playoffs.”
By the numbers, Aric Almirola might seem to face the most daunting task. He is 12 points behind the cutoff and has only three top-10 finishes in 12 Dover starts. They were all earned with another team (Richard Petty Motorsports). But Almirola showed determination last week – an intangible that does not show up in his track record.
“I didn’t know if I really fully believed that the 10 car could go out there and find a way into the second round of the playoffs, but they did,” Kligerman said. “At Vegas, they had a great run and then they had a stellar run at Richmond, gained a top five and that is what was the tiebreaker between him and Jimmie Johnson, advancing after that courageous run through the field at the end in a beat up car to get all the positions he did at the Roval.”
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