What Larson, Logano, and the rest of the field should do in the second round of the NASCAR playoff

by Bob Bocras
NASCAR FOX Sports writer

first round of NASCAR Cup Series Qualifiers are definitely the kind of round not to beat yourself up about.

Round two has a similar theme, but only to a certain extent. And that’s only because two of the three races are known for their unpredictability. In fact, it’s more of a kind of survival and progression tour.

NASCAR’s “Round 12” is its version of the quarter-finals. Opens Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, which was previously in the third round (semi-finals). The last two races of the three-race round are the same as in previous years, with the Talladega Superspeedway (October 2) and Charlotte Track on the road (October 9).

Looking forward to the second round

Looking forward to the second round

Bob Bocras breaks out of the Round of 16 and looks at what the next round of the NASCAR Cup Series qualifiers might look like.

Talladega and its sister track, Daytona, are known for high-speed crafting in big packs that tend to create massive multi-car wrecks. Charlotte’s Road Course (known as “Ruval” due to its use of the oval course and field road course) is very similar to the other road courses on the trophy table – it’s easy to cycle or assemble in an accident and get your top five on the day that ranks 30th in the last laps.

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“It’s a strange set of tracks, so I don’t know,” said the trophy holder. Kyle Larson. “Hopefully Texas goes well and we can get some breaks in Talladega…Usually top speeds aren’t good for me. So we’ll see.

“Ruval, I think we’re going to be really good. Just keep working hard and hopefully you get through this tour.”

No driver can feel safe, but the key will be to get a cushion after the Texas and then be one of the drivers for the match at the end of the game in Talladega. It would be nice, of course, to win and not worry about points, as the four drivers who didn’t earn the fewest points in the Tour are eliminated after the Charlotte track.

“There will be no better place than Texas (to win) because that will be a very important race,” he said. Christopher Bellwho got the most points of any playoff driver in the first round.

The ranking difference and points from the cutoffs at the start of the round are determined by the playoff points earned by the drivers in the first 29 races – five break points for each race win, one break point for each stage win, then playoff points are awarded to the top 10 in the Regular season rankings are on a scale of 15-10-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1.

This is how they sit heading into the tour, with a bit of a forward looking each.

no collapse

Chase Elliot (1 seed, +31 when cut): Elliott entered the first round 33 points ahead of the cutoff and finished with 53 points despite having one bad race, one mediocre race and one very good race. Elliott made two of the top 10 sprinters in sprints (Daytona and Talladega) this year. If it comes to Charlotte’s course on the road, Elliott has seven career path wins. He hasn’t had any races in five races on the road this year, but he finished second at Road America and fourth at Watkins Glen, where he was battling for victory before tangling with Larson. The 2020 Cup champion Hendrick Motorsports driver has had a crash in the Texas All-Star Race, the only event in Texas so far this season.

Joey Logano (stub 2, +18): Lugano knows about survival and progress. He retired early from Bristol and still had a 33-point lead before cutting. Lugano hasn’t finished the first round in any high-speed race this year, so he’s hoping his luck will turn in Talladega. He also didn’t have much fun on the road courses this year, but finished third at Watkins Glen. Team Penske’s driver, the 2018 Cup champion, finished fourth in the All-Star race, so bring the Texas.

No errors. no wreck

Ross Chastain (stub 3, +11): Chastain did what he had to do in the first round, and he took the lead with 49 points. Do we need to remind anyone that Chastain’s victory this year came at Talladega and the track at the Circuit of the Americas? That should give him some confidence to run this round, even though he finished the race in his twenties from his last two road events. The Trackhouse driver had an accident in the All-Star Race.

Kyle Larson (4 stubs, +10): The defending champions qualified fairly during the first round, leading at 50 points before the round ended. Larson smashed in both Daytona races but finished fourth in Talladega, which might give him a bit of confidence for this race. He won his most recent road race at Watkins Glen and was third on Road America. Hendrik’s driver had an accident in the All-Star Race.

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William Byron (5, +6 seed): Byron was strong in the first round, leading with 71 points. This round may not be very smooth. Byron does not have the top 10 in the three super sprints. His best finish on the road this year was ninth. He was 11th in the All-Star race at a time when Hendrik wasn’t as strong in the intermediates. He’ll need to show how much improvement they’ve made in Texas, or it could be a rough run.

Denny Hamlin (seed 6, +4): Hamlin opened the playoffs with back-to-back Finals in second place and led by 58 points. He’s had five super speed wins, but they haven’t been kind to him this year. Toyotas also struggled on road training sessions, and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Hamlin is no exception with no top 10. He finished second in the All-Star race in Texas, which seems to be where Hamlin must perform well to feel good about his chances. in progress.

Christopher Bell (7 seed, +4): Bale had the best first round of any driver as he sealed a spot in the points after two races and finished 93 points before the cutoff. Bale hasn’t finished the first round in any high-speed race this year, so he will need to change his luck at Talladega. He has two Top 10s on the road courses this year, so he’s going to need a solid day on the road track. He was the middle-ranked JGR driver (10th) in the All-Star Race in Texas.

Christopher Bell: There is no better place to win than Texas

Christopher Bell: There is no better place to win than Texas

Christopher Bell came up short in Bristol but is looking forward to Texas. Bale: “There will be no better place than Texas (to win) because that would be a very important race.”

Ryan Blaney (8 seed, +4): Blaney had the awful city of Bristol and had to sweat running 160 laps until the playoff drivers got into trouble. The Penske driver continued to score 26 points. This tour could be better for Blaney. He won the All-Star race in Texas. He has three super speed wins and has also won the Charlotte road course in his career. He has two top 10 in the five road courses this year.

There are no points left on the table

Chase Brisco (seed 9, -4 when cut): Briscoe was Bristol’s biggest upset, going from nine points from the playoffs to a 14-point finish before the cut. Briscoe finished third in the Daytona 500, but crashed in the other ultra-fast races. His best result on the road this year is 13, so if he has to get it done on the Charlotte course, that could be a problem. So he needs a good race in Texas, where he was not so good in the All-Star race (he finished 18th out of 24). One thing he might be going for – he’s the only Stewart-Haas Racing driver left in qualifying, which means the organization’s entire energy will be focused on his car.

Alex Bowman (stub 10, -6): It’s a bit surprising to see Bowman at such a low level given how well he raced in Darlington and Kansas in the first round. He achieved this round by 28 points despite withdrawing from Bristol early after having an accident. He finished in the top ten in all three super sprints this year. The Hendrick driver finished second in the COTA, but this was the only one of the top 10 drivers on the road track this year. He was sixth in the All-Star race. All these results should not surprise anyone because it has been inconsistent this year. But if he has the consistency he had in the first two races of the opening round, he’ll be fine.

Daniel Suarez (stub 11, -6): Suarez barely made it to the second round as he managed to crash in Bristol (out Austin Dillon And the effect Tyler Riddick, both were eventually eliminated) and finished many laps but with seven points to spare. He doesn’t have a top 10 in super sprint race this year. He has a road win at Sonoma and a Top 5 at Rhode America and Watkins Glen. For the Texans, the Trackhouse driver did well over the weekend with stars, winning the final stage of the open game to advance and then finishing fifth in the main event. So a good return to Texas will be key.

Austin Cendrick (stub 12,-7): Cindric battled tire problems at Bristol but led by just two points, giving rookie Penske’s team new life this Tour. It might be a good run for him with Talladega and Charlotte Racecourse. He won the Daytona 500 and was third there in July, so he has potential in Talladega. He has two Top 5 players and two Top 10 players on his Five Roads track starting this year. Cendrick was seventh in the All-Star race.

Bob Pokras covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He’s spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @Popocrasand subscribe to Newsletter from FOX Sports NASCAR with Bob Pokras.

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