Bump & Run: Which drivers will not advance to Round of 8?

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Brad Keslowski, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman enter Kansas outside the transfer spot to the next round. Who are the four drivers you think will not advance this weekend at Kansas Speedway?

Nate Ryan: Probably these four. Blaney and Keselowski could advance on points but will need to run well and get some major help from those above the cut line. Larson and Bowman will advance only by winning, and the odds of that are only realistic for Larson.

Dustin Long: Kyle Larson, Alex Bowman, Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski. Kyle Larson was strong at Kansas in May and should provide a valiant run but he’s in essentially a must-win situation and it will be hard to beat Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. at that track.

Daniel McFadin: Alex Bowman, Ryan Blaney, Clint Bowyer and Kyle Larson.

Dan Beaver: Blaney, Larson and Bowman effectively need a win to advance and they have not shown enough consistent strength on the 1.5-mile tracks to get that done at Kansas. Keselowski and Truex have – and after two frustrating weeks, they will do enough to get into the next round. That leaves Clint Bowyer as the odd man out. Kansas may be his home track, but it has not been particularly welcoming since 2013.

After nearly winning at Dover and then winning at Talladega, how do you rate Aric Almirola’s championship chances?

Nate Ryan: Still fair to middling. He will likely run well at Texas and possibly Phoenix but Martinsville (three top 10s in 19 starts) will be a challenge.

Dustin Long: Better than it was two weeks ago but still not among the favorites.

Daniel McFadin: 65 percent. Phoenix and Kansas are among his top nine tracks in average finishes, but he’s finished in the top 10 at Texas once and Homestead twice (in 2010 and 2012). Almirola hasn’t finished in the top 10 at Martinsville since 2014.

Dan Beaver: Almirola has not been able to sustain momentum for very long in 2018. Unless he wins at Kansas, he’ll enter Round 3 with less than 10 bonus points and that is going to make it difficult for him to advance. Almirola’s odds of winning a championship are low.

Do you rate Aric Almirola’s title chances better than any of the Big 3 drivers? Why or why not?

Nate Ryan: No. It still seems better than 50-50 odds that Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. all advance to the championship round, partly because of their playoff points cushion but also because the five remaining tracks (three 1.5-mile ovals) lay out well for the trio.

Dustin Long: Still a gap between the Big 3 and the rest of the playoff field.

Daniel McFadin: Less. Kevin Harvick is the biggest threat at Phoenix and he hasn’t finished outside the top 10 there in the last 10 years. And with 1.5-mile tracks in the form of Texas, Kansas and Homestead, you have to believe the Big 3 are the favorites regardless of how well Almirola is doing.

Dan Beaver: Almirola had a couple of strong runs at Homestead with Richard Petty Motorsports including a fourth in 2010. He has only three top-fives this year – none of which came on 1.5-mile tracks. He won’t be able to outrun Kevin Harvick or Kyle Busch in the finale.

What did you think of the Talladega race?

Nate Ryan: It was unlike anything at that 2.66-mile oval in nearly a half-century – look no further than the 15 lead changes being the fewest since 1973. Based off fan and driver reaction, NASCAR assuredly will take steps to improve the stability of the cars for a return to pack racing and nonstop drafting in 2019.

Dustin Long: An unusual race because of rule changes this season that made the cars so hard to drive. At the end it was still the same Talladega — chaos.

Daniel McFadin: It was by far the most fascinating Talladega race in recent memory, despite the fewest lead changes in a Cup race there since 1973. Seeing the Stewart-Haas Racing cars pull ahead of the field by at least a dozen car lengths at times was an echo of plate races there when Y2K was a threat. I’m completely game for a superspeedway race where the field isn’t one giant blob that’s only broken up by large crashes.

Dan Beaver: I’ve learned to never be surprised by anything that happens at Talladega. The four-car domination by the Stewart-Haas drivers was interesting, but it wasn’t very entertaining to watch. 

NASCAR America: Only one playoff win for the Big 3

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The Big 3 of Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. combined to win 17 of the first 23 races this season.

Since then, they have one victory in the last eight.

Busch has the only playoff win among the Big 3. He led the field to the checkers at Richmond, but that is not representative of his recent results. During Round 2 of the playoffs, he has recorded an average running position of just 11.95. Martin Truex Jr. has been worse in that regard with an average running position of 16.70.

“Those numbers are not as eye-popping as we saw from this trio earlier in the season,” Nate Ryan said on Monday’s edition of NASCAR America. “Especially I look at Kyle Busch. … This is a guy who had one good race – the race he won at Richmond – through the first half of the playoffs.”

Busch and Harvick still have a substantial advantage in playoff points to ease their path to Homestead. Busch has 55 playoff points; Harvick has 53. But Truex was made painfully aware last week that his 38 playoff points are not a sufficient safeguard. He spent much of the Talladega race below the cutoff line in terms of points-as-they-ran.

Equally disturbing for the Big 3 may be that parity has returned to the series.

The five playoff races have been won by five different drivers – all of whom are in championship contention. Brad Keselowski won at Las Vegas, Busch has his Richmond win as a highlight, Ryan Blaney won on the Charlotte Roval, Chase Elliott won at Dover and Aric Almirola won last week at Talladega.

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NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Kyle Busch, Martin Truex struggle at Dega while Aric Almirola shines

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Today’s NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN with Carolyn Manno and Nate Ryan from Stamford. Dale Jarrett will join from Charlotte with a look back at all the action for last week’s playoff race at Talladega.

  • We’ll recap Sunday’s race at Talladega that saw Aric Almirola end his 149-race winless streak and advance to the Round of 8. What does his victory mean for Almirola’s championship hopes going forward?
  • Plus, we’ll examine the run of dominance of Stewart-Haas Racing in the Round of 12. Can all 4 of the team’s drivers find their way to Miami to battle for a championship?
  • We’ll discuss the recent struggles of Cup Series champions Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. How does their performance of late bode for their chances to make it to Miami?
  • Kyle Larson had a lot to say following Sunday’s race and it wasn’t positive. Facing elimination, how will Larson approach Kansas this weekend? Dave Burns reports from the Chip Ganassi Shop on the state of the 42 team.
  • Plus, we begin our celebration of NASCAR America’s upcoming 1,000th episode (Friday, 6 ET) with highlights from our vault.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch it online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Staff picks for today’s Cup race at Talladega

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Here’s who NBC’s writers think will win today’s race at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Dustin Long

Brad Keselowski. Team Penske roll on the plate tracks continues.

Nate Ryan

Martin Truex Jr. Finally breaks through for his first restrictor-plate win in Cup in his final plate race with Furniture Row Racing.

Daniel McFadin

Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus begin their final six races together with a win.

Dan Beaver

Talladega is always good for a great storyline. Clint Bowyer survives his first race on this track in his last three starts in a big way and advances in the playoffs.

Bump & Run: Who will win an 8th Cup title first? Jimmie or Chad?

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With Hendrick Motorsports announcing Wednesday that seven-time champions Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus will not paired together next year for the first time since 2001, the NASCAR on NBC team debated some of the key topics moving forward.

Who wins an eighth title first? Jimmie or Chad?

Jeff Burton: Jimmie Johnson

Kyle Petty: There will be no 8th title. Remember I’ve seen this show with my Dad and Dale Inman. My Dad was never really a threat again. Dale won an 8th championship with Terry Labonte. I don’t believe William Byron to be the next Terry Labonte. Together they were once “The Team.” Time and the sport changes.

Dale Jarrett: I think if it’s done, it’s going to be Jimmie. I think he’s got a couple of more opportunities at this.

Parker KligermanJimmie. Nothing against Chad, as I think he is as much a part of their success as Jimmie, but the tool with which Chad will go to battle with is still being sharpened and shaped. Jimmie, on the other hand, has experience and cunning to make up for any pitfalls.

Nate Ryan: Just like Dale Inman, Knaus will win his eighth with another driver.

Dustin Long: Neither. They both remain with seven titles.

Daniel McFadin: Knaus. His expiration date as a crew chief is further out than Johnson’s as a driver but not by much. I don’t think Johnson will ever reach eight.

Dan Beaver: Perhaps Chad, but probably neither. All good things must come to an end and Jimmie Johnson will not earn another. He’ll come close a time or two just like Richard Petty after winning his seventh in 1979 but something will continue to keep him from advancing to the final round. Chad’s opportunity to win another championship will not come with William Byron, but it is hard to know with whom he’ll be paired in the future.

 

Which of the last six races is the best for Jimmie and Chad to win together this year?

Jeff Burton: Martinsville

Kyle Petty: My Magic 8-Ball says … ”None”

Dale Jarrett: I think they have two. I think this weekend at Talladega, obviously, is an opportunity for anybody, but I think Martinsville is probably still their best shot that they have. With Jimmie’s experience and the things they’ve been able to do short-track racing, I think that is their best shot. I think even that’s a long shot from what I’ve seen this year.

Parker Kligerman: Martinsville – Need I say more?

Nate Ryan: Texas Motor Speedway. The top-five speed at Las Vegas Motor Speedway bodes well for their final race together at the 1.5-mile oval they’ve conquered seven times.

Dustin Long: Martinsville but even that won’t be easy. While he won the playoff race there in 2016, Johnson has two top-10 finishes in his last eight starts. Still, this is a track with so much history for Hendrick Motorsports that it would be fitting if it happened there.

Daniel McFadin: Martinsville. Their nine grandfather clocks speak for themselves.

Dan Beaver: Jimmie Johnson has nine wins at Martinsville with the most recent coming in 2016. That is a track where they can pull a little strategy at the end to get track position and Johnson knows how to do the rest.

 

Who is the next driver at Hendrick Motorsports to win the title?

Jeff Burton: Chase Elliott

Kyle Petty: Chase Elliott… or ask me again when Jimmie retires and we see who takes his place!

Dale Jarrett: Chase Elliott. That’s the next at Hendrick Motorsports and could be this year.

Parker Kligerman: Jimmie Johnson. He will win one more before he hangs up the helmet. At least that is what the race fan in me wants to believe.

Nate Ryan: Chase Elliott. He’ll be among the championship four this season and could capture the 2019 title.

Dustin Long: Chase Elliott. It won’t be this year but his time is coming.

Daniel McFadin: Chase Elliott, just due to his current success and amount of experience in top equipment. Though I wouldn’t put it past Alex Bowman to sneak one in before William Byron starts heating up.

Dan Beaver: Chase Elliott in 2018.