The realignment of the NASCAR Playoffs seems to be working when it at least comes to the first round of action. Last week it was Las Vegas getting its second date in the schedule, something they have been asking for, and aside from the heat, it worked out well.
What many were questioning was the move of Richmond going from finishing the regular season to being part of the playoffs.
To me, this was a great move because it put a second short track into the playoffs, something many drivers were asking for the last few years. Richmond also became the lone night race on the schedule, as Charlotte is now a much different animal (more on that next week).
But, as is the case this season, the more things change, the more they stay the same. It’s another week where one of the “Big 3” wins. However now, at least based on the three weeks prior, it is now becoming a bit of the “Big Four” with the addition of Brad Keselowski.
However I’m not going to already say we’re going to see these four compete for the championship at season’s end. I expect at least two of them to be there, but not all of them.
This week, two of those four are locked into the second round thanks to victories. A third, Martin Truex Jr, is secured into the second round based on points ahead of the cutoff. That will make next week’s final race of the first round more critical because now only nine spots remain before the bottom of the bracket gets eliminated, and the green accents on the cars come off.
It will be a very interesting week at Charlotte, that is for certain.
STAGE 1: Martin Truex Jr.
STAGE 2: Martin Truex Jr.
RESULTS: 1-Kyle Busch 2-Harvick 3-Truex Jr. 4-Elliott 5-Almirola 6-Dillon 7-Larson 8-Johnson 9-Keselowski 10-Bowyer
NOTABLE FINISHES: 11-Jones 12-Bowman 14-Logano 16-Hamlin 18-Kurt Busch 19-Blaney 20-Byron
CAUTIONS: 3 for 23 laps. Lap 102-109 (Stage 1 Conclusion); 202-209 (Stage 2 Conclusion); 327-333 (#96 incident-T2).
LEAD CHANGES: 16 among 8 drivers. K. Harvick 1-40; M. Truex Jr. 41-103; B. Keselowski 104; M. Truex Jr. 105-203; A. Almirola 204; C. Elliott 205-213; B. Keselowski 214-243; C. Elliott 244-268; A. Bowman 269; M. Truex Jr. 270; R. Stenhouse Jr. 271-272; B. Keselowski 273-286; Kyle Busch (P) 287-327; B. Keselowski 328; Kyle Busch 329-342; B. Keselowski 343-363; Kyle Busch 364-400.
TIME OF RACE: 2 Hrs, 54 Mins, 30 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 103.152 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 0.777 Seconds
PLAYOFF STANDINGS (Earned/Behind Leader [Playoff Points]): 1. Truex Jr*, 2141 ; 2. Kyle Busch*, -16 ; 3. Harvick, -28 ; 4. Keselowski*, -30 ; 5. Logano, -60 ; 6. Almirola, -62 ; 7. Larson, -68 ; 8. Kurt Busch, -70 ; 9. Elliott, -75 ; 10. Dillon, -75 ; 11. Bowman, -80; 12. Blaney, -81 ; 13. Bowyer, -85 ; 14. Johnson, -87; 15. Jones, -102 ; 16. Hamlin, -110 .
*Locked into Second Round