Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Heated NASCAR Playoffs pursuit ramps up potential for bubble drama – NASCAR

Are you not entertained?

In a 2019 NASCAR season that saw plenty of highlights through its first half — Denny Hamlin winning the Daytona 500 for J.D. Gibbs; a wild night at Kansas Speedway; Kyle Busch picking up win No. 200; Clint Bowyer reaching his own bicentennial mark, in terms of punches thrown at Ryan Newman — it’s hard to imagine, but we may just be scratching the surface in terms of drama.

Look no further than the NASCAR Playoffs bubble.

RELATED: New Hampshire schedule | Playoff Watch | Series standings

With seven races remaining in the regular season, there are five drivers within 10 points of the cutline. Clint Bowyer and Jimmie Johnson sit 14th and 15th, respectively, with 481 points apiece. Erik Jones is eight behind them with 473 points to hold the final provisional spot. Ryan Newman is two points back with 471 as the first driver out and Daniel Suarez is two behind him, in 18th.

Five drivers within 10 points of being in or out, separated by a total of 12 points. Bonkers.

It’d be more shocking if the current provisional field looked the same seven races from now than if it were to change drastically — particularly if the past month-plus has shown us anything.

Just a few recent notables from the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season:

  • Last six races won by six different drivers
  • Last five races won by five different teams
  • Last three winners were first-time ’19 winners, two of which were first-time career winners
  • A 20-year-old won one week, a 40-year-old the next
  • Busch Bros. beating, banging and battling to the finish — for the second time this season and just the third time ever

Any given Sunday — or Saturday night — indeed.

To put that into perspective a little, during that same six-race stretch last year, Joe Gibbs Racing won two of them, now-JGR driver Martin Truex Jr. took three more himself and Clint Bowyer won a rain-shortened event at Michigan. (To be fair, “Slide Job!” was part of that run, and that was perhaps the moment of the season.)

Week in, week out right now, the playoff pressure is tangible and it’s showing up on the race track. Even the race for the regular-season championship is a tight one, with rivals Kyle Busch and Joey Logano separated by just 11 points. Every lap, every position truly mean something right now.

Oh, and if it weren’t enough, each of the final seven race tracks of the regular season are different lengths/layouts.

Track Size
New Hampshire 1.058 mile
Pocono 2.5 mile
Watkins Glen 2.45 road course
Michigan 2.0 mile
Bristol 0.533 mile
Darlington 1.366 mile
Indianapolis 2.5 mile

At least one of the five drivers on the cut line has at least one win at all of these tracks but Watkins Glen — where Daniel Suarez is knocking on the door of Victory Lane. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver has yet to finish outside the top five at the New York track.

All this is to say: buckle up.

The rest of the summer is going to be sizzling, and if the regular season is any indication — the 2019 NASCAR Playoffs have a chance to be the most memorable yet.

The drama continues to unfold this weekend at the “Magic Mile” with New Hampshire Motor Speedway’s Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 (Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN/NBC Sports App, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Source: https://www.nascar.com/news-media/2019/07/18/playoffs-pursuit-regular-season-bubble-analysis/


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