Bristol Motor Speedway is considering importing dirt? If this isn’t an indictment of the current template for NASCAR as it applies to short track racing, I am not sure what else it would be.
Since Speedway Motorsports Inc., has decided to add traction compound at the bottom of this track, the racing has gotten much better. But NASCAR drivers are not idiots! They understand you can’t beat and bang like the good old days of Bristol because if you cut down a tire you will lose at least two laps and can forget having a good points day. Adding dirt without opening up the wheel wells and dumbing down the front aero wouldn’t solve what is ailing the NASCAR rules package. But I digress.
Let’s check the Power Rankings after the Round of 16 elimination race.
- Kevin Harvick – His ninth win of the season holding off a grouchy Kyle Busch showed why Happy is the top dog in Cup this season. Since the Championship race is at one of his best track this year (Phoenix Raceway), only bad luck will keep him from becoming a two-time champion.
- Denny Hamlin – The proud father of a new bouncing baby race team. That good news will displace a tough race at Bristol. Since winning at Dover International Speedway, the No. 11 team has just one top-10 finish in his last five races. That has him in jeopardy of slipping out of the runner up spot.
- Martin Truex Jr. – The No. 19 team had a long night at Bristol, but now he gets to return to the type of track he loves: intermediates. Look for a return to the top five, but can he get a win again soon?
- Brad Keselowski – The night started well for Bad Brad, but it soon turned into a long night. He has had finishes of 30th or worse in two of the last eight races, but has timed the bad races right so far during the playoffs.
- Chase Elliott – It was another strong race for NASCAR’s most popular driver. His consistency has kept him in the playoff race so far, but getting to victory lane will be the key in the next two rounds.
- Kyle Busch – Rowdy came so close to finally ending his winless drought at the Cup level this year. His whining about lapped traffic is at championship winning level though, and there is no way he stays winless all season.
- Joey Logano -The experts have been talking quite a bit about Busch and Truex being the two drivers hurt most by having no practice and no qualifying. But looking at the data, Sliced Bread might be a contender for that claim, too.
- Aric Almirola – In this era where winning is supposed to be so important, Almirola is one of the four drivers in the Round of 12 that has yet to win this season. He has been a survivor so far this year, but will need to pick it up this round.
- Alex Bowman – While he has a win this season, it seems implausible that a driver with just three top-five finishes in the first 29 races of the season is still a top contender for the championship. But that is the absurdity of the NASCAR playoffs.
- Clint Bowyer – Speaking of guys who are still lucky to be hanging around in the championship, Bowyer advanced with a typically strong finish at Bristol. But Bowyer only has a pair of top-five finishes all year, which is hardly championship material.
- Austin Dillon – After the top seven in the Power Rankings, the championship quality of the remaining drivers drops considerably, which shows why allowing 16 drivers in the playoffs has always been absurd. Did he use up all his strong finishes in the Round of 16?
- Kurt Busch – William Byron’s crash was Kurt Busch’s gift to move forward in the playoffs. The other Busch only has one top 10 in the last seven races and has to pick up the pace or he will be eliminated this round.
- William Byron – Did you know Byron is the first iRacing driver to get eliminated in the Round of 16 in NASCAR history? I wonder if he ever had a disappointing crash like Saturday night’s during his fake racing career.
- Cole Custer – When you enter a race in a “Must Win” situation to advance to the next round, the last thing you want is a slow car. This has been a successful rookie campaign for Cold Custard, and next year will be even better.
- Ryan Blaney – What in the Wide World of Sports is going on with Blaney? His inconsistency to finish races strong is puzzling. There is no doubt he has immense talent, but there is a reason he can’t win more than one race a year, and it’s that lack of consistency from start to finish.
- Bubba Wallace – The season started with rumors of Wallace losing his ride at the No. 43 due to a lack of performance. Now as we look forward to next season, his NASCAR Cup Series future is looking quite bright with an upgrade of equipment while driving for a basketball legend.