It’s crunch time! After Sunday’s race at Dover, the field will be sliced down to 12 from 16. Thanks to either wins or points, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski and Kyle Larson are playing with house money.
Beyond that, things get a little more interesting. One would think Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin should go on through. While a complete disaster could take any one or all of this trio down, I think there would be a greater chance of a July blizzard in Hawaii than one of these contenders going down.
Provided that they run reasonably well, Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney don’t have much to worry about. It would be a bit of a shock to see the 2014 champion go down. It seems, as Vizzini would say, inconceivable that Harvick would tumble out in Dover. While the aforementioned youngsters could encounter disaster- and do from time to time- they could be in a heck of a lot worse condition.
If you can’t be consistent, you can find a way forward by winning. Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch are quite capable of winning. Let’s not forget who Kahne races for. Equipment shouldn’t be a problem for him. Unfortunately, a number of other issues will likely lock him out. Surviving isn’t impossible, just unlikely.
Newman is one of those guys who just seems to find a way. Remember how he challenged Harvick in 2014 without even so much as a win? He runs hard, and he’s a survivor. I’m not sure I’d bet on him, but sliding on home out of Dover. Unlike his younger bro, Busch seems to encounter the lousiest luck at the worst times, but….but I’m not counting him out.
From here, Jamie McMurray seems to fit in the same camp as Austin Dillon and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. They could go through, but a lot of things have to go right. None can be very comfortable. They need to make their way through the field, and they need to stay out of trouble. When we’re talking about 40 drivers pushing the envelope on the Monster Mile, that’s a tall order. It’s not impossible. It’s just difficult.
With the playoff scenarios and what’s at stake, the ingredients to make for compelling racing. There’s plenty to race for. Like many of you, this playoff “format” brings a little too much in the way of luck into the picture, but these are the cards we’re dealt.