Who will be eliminated from the NASCAR Cup Series Round of 12?
Luken Glover: Just a couple of months ago, Kyle Busch looked like a Championship 4 candidate. Now, he sits 12th in points with an average finish of 21st in the last dozen races. Busch has back-to-back top fives at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL, but momentum is not on his side. He will have to wait another year for his third title. Bubba Wallace has pulled several surprises in these playoffs, and he has improved on road courses. That being said, the road ahead is too bumpy for him to advance. Ross Chastain‘s Talladega Superspeedway accident leaves him depending on the ROVAL, a place where he hasn’t scored a top 20. I’m going out on a risky limb to say Martin Truex Jr. doesn’t advance, too. He has no top 15s in the playoffs and hasn’t earned such a result in the past two ROVAL races. Seventeen points to the good seems comfortable, but that can disappear quickly. If the No. 19 team slips again, the mistakes will catch up to it this time.
Taylor Kornhoff: Busch is an easy out. He’s been strong on road courses for many years, especially with Richard Childress Racing, but he’s had difficulty closing them out. As fun as the stories will be if Wallace advances, I see him running in the top 15 and going about even with his current points situation and going out this round. Joining them will be Brad Keselowski and Truex. Keselowski just has too many problems on road courses and Truex has struggled in the playoffs. He’s fast on road courses, but he finished 26th at Sonoma Raceway last year, so when the speed is down it shows, even on some of his best tracks.
Mark Kristl: Looking at the drivers’ stats at the ROVAL, the four drivers currently below the cut line all rank below the top 10 in points earned at the ROVAL in its Cup history. But the ROVAL races always produce drama so one driver below the cut line likely will advance. I’ll give the nod to Tyler Reddick, who won a road course race this season, over Keselowski. Therefore, the four eliminated drivers will be Keselowski, Busch, Chastain and Wallace.
Chase Folsom: Busch is in a must-win situation, and without a miracle, I see him being out following the ROVAL. Chastain and Wallace are most likely out as well simply due to the road course strengths of the drivers they’re trying to catch. On that note, Reddick overtakes Keselowski for the final spot in the Round of 8.
Tanner Marlar: Kyle Larson, Wallace, Busch and Reddick. A battle of remarkably stoppable forces, as of late. Busch is the easy out here, as he’s had a dreadful back half of the season. Sure, he’s been good at the ROVAL, but the current issues with that team go deeper than the driver’s seat.
Zach Gillispie: Larson: He is not good at road courses. Wallace: same answer. Busch: Welp, he’s 26 points behind the cutoff. Reddick: He’ll choke.
Ryan Blaney rarely does burnouts because Dale Inman said that the winning jockey of the Kentucky Derby “doesn’t beat the shit out of his horse.” Are burnouts overdone as a celebration?
Marlar: Burnouts are overdone. It doesn’t mean everyone should stop doing it, though. This is kind of Ryan Blaney’s schtick now, and it’d have a pretty sweet cool factor to it if it continued to be his thing.
Kristl: Burnouts aren’t overdone, but the theatrics behind them have become excessive in 2023. Drivers have caught their race-winning cars on fire due to the rubber buildup, they have done burnouts without the steering wheel and some have even attempted to do burnouts while leaning out of the racecar. Hey, if the team owner is willing to pay to have the car repaired, more power to them. With that in mind, I enjoy how Ty Majeski has done a Polish victory lap in honor of Alan Kulwicki and his Wisconsin roots, some drivers have climbed into the stands to briefly celebrate with the fans and some even quickly get out of their racecars to celebrate with their teams.
Glover: That is totally up to the teams and drivers. If teams are planning on refurbishing parts, such as the chassis or engine, burnouts definitely do no good. That has been the case with teams having to reuse engines this season. Outside of that, doing it every race may get old, but drivers have the liberty to do so. If it is a particularly special win, a win after an extended drought, or a car that will not be touched again, go for it. There is still a level of intrigue to it at times.
Kornhoff: I suppose burnouts are overdone as a celebration because every driver does them for every race. They lose their significance. If a driver gets their first win, they win a big race like the Coca-Cola 600 or they end a win drought, I would expect a burnout. That said, I couldn’t care less. It’s fun for people who are at/ watching their first race.
Gillispie: Kulwicki’s celebrations > Everybody else > Carl Edwards in the All-Star Race.
Folsom: I’m torn on this one, as I enjoy watching them, but I can see why they could be overused. I enjoy it when drivers have a signature burnout style, but sometimes they should be given a rest.
What other racetracks could be added to the Cup schedule in the coming years?
Kristl: Earlier in 2023, I answered this question by saying NASCAR should go to Portland International Raceway. Yes, it is a road course, something NASCAR reduced in 2024 with the elimination of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. With the subtraction of Auto Club Speedway from the Cup schedule, though, PIR nicely fills that void for the West Coast — and Pacific Northwest fans deserve a Cup race.
Glover: The two on my radar are Rockingham Speedway and Kentucky Speedway. Rockingham would have a popular return, and the racing there would be entertaining with the Next Gen car. The two main questions are this: What updates does the track still need, and can it consistently bring in a good attendance? Kentucky was a track that was given up on too quickly. The first several years of the Cup races there left a lot to be desired. However, the last two races there showed some exciting racing and finishes, plus the Next Gen has adapted to nearly every intermediate well. It deserves another shot.
Gillispie: The racing gods will come after NASCAR with a vengeance after it axed Road America. Bill France is rolling over in his grave after the little punks in the front office killed something that proved to be great. Oh, wait, he’s already been rolling like a washing machine for the last 15 years. In the name of all things Big Bill, bring the damn race back. Oh, and the Milwaukee Mile, Chicagoland Speedway and Kentucky, please.
Kornhoff: Dirt racing is a must. Eldora Speedway would be the most fitting, and it’s one of the few dirt tracks that could accommodate a NASCAR-sized crowd. Another track I’d desperately want to see interest in from NASCAR is WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. It’d be so interesting to see how Cup cars race at that track and how the teams will set them up, especially with the huge elevation changes.
Folsom: Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Iowa Speedway is a great addition, but there aren’t a lot of options for other ovals until the short track package gets fixed. Rockingham would be nice if the track can fix it up enough.
Marlar: First of all, ROAD AMERICA SHOULD HAVE NEVER BEEN CANCELED. What was NASCAR thinking? It makes absolutely no sense. However, as far as other options go, I’m cool with the street race in Chicago replacing Chicagoland. I would, however, like to see the Cup Series take on Portland. The NASCAR Xfinity Series race there has been fun, and Cup there would be a great time.
How does 2023 ARCA Menards Series champion Jesse Love compare to other recent ARCA graduates?
Kornhoff: With ARCA, you can never know. At this point, it’s just seat time for drivers getting groomed more than an actual meaningful competition. In the past, we had Nick Sanchez and Ty Gibbs, and Gibbs is already contending for wins in the Cup Series. Meanwhile, Sanchez has shown lots of promise this season in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, but he is winless. That said, behind him in the 2022 ARCA points was Daniel Dye, and the performance disparity with both this season is noticeable. I know not every driver has had the same opportunities or equipment, but the difference is so drastic that it shows me that you just can never know. It would not surprise me if Jesse Love ran for a championship in Phoenix Raceway next year in the Truck Series, but it would be equally unsurprising if he ran 25th every week and scored a single top 10 all year.
Glover: Love is in pretty good standing compared to recent ARCA champions. He has more wins than drivers such as Sanchez, Christian Eckes and Sheldon Creed, who all are in the ballpark of starts made (Love has 47). He has 12 wins, not too far behind Gibbs’ mark of 18 in 47 starts as well. Love certainly has talent and appears to be a star in the making. The elephant in the room is whether Toyota will be able to keep him in the fold as he climbs the ladder.
Marlar: Was there any doubt? It would be a bigger headline if he didn’t win it. Love could be really, really good, but I’ve got to see him against some better competition first. Greg Van Alst isn’t the first person that comes to mind when it comes to putting Love through his paces.
Gillispie: Who’s his competition? A child actor, a baseball player and Brad Smith in a car as old as the Liberty Bell. He also yeeted Van Alst into the sun. Love was the champion before the season even started.
Kristl: I’ve covered ARCA since 2019 and Love is the second-most talented driver I’ve seen come out of the Venturini Motorsports stable, trailing only Corey Heim. Looking at the 2018-2022 ARCA champions, I’d rank Love second behind Gibbs. Love has improved his race craft in ARCA, captured two ARCA Menards Series West championships and has competed against the likes of Gibbs, Sammy Smith, Sanchez, Rajah Caruth and Dye, all of whom currently compete full time in the NASCAR national series. Love is going to be a stud in NASCAR sooner than later.
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