1. Denny Hamlin Thriving Amid Brashness
Even if you didn’t see a lap of Saturday’s (Sept. 16) race at Bristol Motor Speedway, chances are good that you still know about the most memorable soundbite of the evening.
After taking the win, Denny Hamlin played the role of a pro wrestling heel, reminding fans that unless he was their favorite driver, he had just beaten their favorite.
There are two ways of carrying yourself in a high-pressure environment. One is the straightforward way to avoid any kind of controversy. The other is to instead of shying from controversy, take it on. Hamlin is not afraid to, as some of the younger population says, “want that smoke.”
It’s a comparison on par with when Darrell Waltrip and Richard Petty went at each other in the late 1970s to the 1980s. Both had different ways of doing things – Petty’s low-key approach to Waltrip’s brashness. Regardless, both were successful regardless of approach.
Will Hamlin’s tactic pay off? Time will tell, but it’ll sure be entertaining regardless.
2. Don’t Be Shocked To See Bubba Wallace and Martin Truex Jr. in Next Round
Both Toyota drivers brought their postseason hopes back from the dead at Bristol, doing a combo of putting themselves in position and taking advantage of the misfortune of others. As a result, both are advancing to the Round of 12.
As crazy as it sounds, the two drivers that were the last ones into the next round stand very able to advance to the Round of 8. If both do so, it would not come as a shock.
First, there’s Truex. Next week, the postseason shifts to Texas Motor Speedway where Truex has been feast or famine. In the past five races, he has finished second and sixth with the balance on the other side being two DNFs and a finish of 29th. If Truex’s car is dialed in as it can be at times, it could be his ticket to the Round of 8.
A week ago, Truex was in danger of not advancing. Now, one of the biggest title threats is back in the game, and that could spell danger for everyone else.
As for Wallace? His prowess at Talladega Superspeedway, the middle race of the next round, makes him an instant threat. He has one win there and was one ill-timed block from another win this past spring. When you mix that in with 23XI Racing being typically strong on the 1.5-mile tracks, two chances to rack up playoff points are also very present.
And it may be no surprise to see either Wallace or Truex in the Round of 8.
3. Clash, West Coast Swing Should Begin Season Prior to Daytona
NASCAR will take another run around the LA Coliseum after Sunday’s announcement that the Busch Light Clash at The Coliseum would be returning to the storied venue for a third year in a row.
This move continues NASCAR’s footprint in the LA market that at least for now won’t have a points event in any national series with Auto Club Speedway not currently being used for events.
While it does address the need to be in the Southern California market, it does not address the needless strain on teams to begin the season. Teams will be crisscrossing the country to start the season and going straight back across… for a non-points event.
The NASCAR season is long, and exhausting everyone before it’s even officially underway is not fair to team personnel who’ll be getting ready for another February to November marathon.
If NASCAR is dead-set on running this event at the LA Coliseum, it should kick off a true West Coast swing. That means after the Clash, the teams would not haul back to North Carolina and nearby places. Rather, the schedule should go to Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Phoenix Raceway, Sonoma Raceway and then Daytona International Speedway. And with the current package producing racing at intermediate tracks that is exciting, how could NASCAR not want to kick off a season with that?
Yes, that does away with the Great American Race kicking off the season, but it’s been done before. As recently as 1982, the season kicked off somewhere other than Daytona with it instead in California at Riverside Speedway. There’s a previous precedent to start the season somewhere other than Daytona, and it’s one that should be pursued.
4. Live Fast Motorsports Positioned Well With Sale of Charter
This week was a great moment for BJ McLeod and Live Fast Motorsports. The team dramatically changed its fortunes and did so for the better. In selling its charter to Spire Motorsports, the team firmly cast its die. The focus likely shifts away from the NASCAR Cup Series where competing against teams such as Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing of the world is a tough road given the resources teams like Live Fast have.
Instead, the team got a nice payday of around reportedly $40 million. Even if it is not a top team, there is hay to be made in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Teams like RSS Racing and Jordan Anderson Racing are two prime examples of being able to compete despite limited resources. If Live Fast can get to that level if not higher, then this past could be the turning point toward that.
5. Penske Does Not Need a Reset yet but Could if Things Don’t Improve
Two drivers in the postseason of the Cup Series. For most teams, that’s a success. If you were to ask anyone at teams such as Richard Childress Racing or Stewart-Haas Racing, they’d have gladly taken that.
But there are some teams in the garage that have high expectations each season, and Team Penske is one of them. It’s safe to say that results have fallen short for drivers from the Penske camp this season. Saturday night at Bristol wrapped up with Joey Logano, the defending series champion, failing to advance to the Round of 12. With Austin Cindric having not made the postseason, Penske now has just one driver, Ryan Blaney, still alive in the postseason.
Logano’s lone win this season was back in March at Atlanta Motor Speedway. His results have been solid so far with nine top fives tying him for fourth. For Blaney, his Coca-Cola 600 win was followed by a sixth-place finish at World Wide Technology Raceway. He hasn’t finished that high ever since.
The pieces are obviously there for Penske to contend for a title. Logano is a two-time champion, and given what he did a season ago, the No. 22 team has a handle on what it takes to win in the current generation of the Next Gen car. Blaney may have only one win this season, but it came in the season’s longest race, and you don’t win a 600-miler by accident. Cindric may not have won a race this year, but he did a year ago. All three teams at Penske are capable of winning and based on what Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher have done this year, the Fords are capable of running near the front consistently.
There is no reason to hit the panic button at Penske, but that time could come around the start of next summer if results are similar to this year.
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