Entering the playoffs the three teams with momentum when it came to a championship battle, in order, were Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, and Martin Truex Jr. Combined at that point, they had won over half the first 26 races in the season to put them where they were in the standings.
However, that doesn’t seem to have been the case since the playoffs began in NASCAR.
Since the first race to open the Round of 16, combined between the three, only one has won a race, that being Busch at Richmond.
So really there was no true indicator of a driver to watch at that point, as all had an eye on each other.
That really isn’t the case now after the Round of 12, because clearly the kid running his father’s number is the guy to watch right now. Chase Elliott finally broke into victory lane earlier this year at Watkins Glen, and everyone was grateful he got that moment. But now, when you look at the last three races, the young man has come into his own, and has taken the focus well off the “Big 3” as they have been called.
Right now, the focus is on “Ole No. 9.”
A gutsy call by crew chief Alan Gustafson at Dover proved to be the winning one as Chase Elliott locked himself into the second round, avoiding the chaos that is always at Talladega. However, Sunday at Kansas was not as easy. It was looking like the battle would be between he and Harvick, who already had his spot secured for the third round based on points. But, Harvick made the one miscue of a speeding penalty on pit road, and it became Elliott’s race to win…or lose.
When you have Busch breathing down your neck, knowing he’s the most aggressive driver on the track, you stand up and get on the wheel in order to make a statement.
Elliott did just that, taking the win, his second in three weeks, and third in the last 11. This after going nearly 90 events without a win, and people thinking he may not get to that point. But, now that he has the momentum of winning 67 percent of the races in one round, the man to beat now is the one with the “Napa Know How”, or in this case he was part of the Dew Crew.
It would not surprise me if he wins a race in the third round. The biggest advantage in winning during the Round of 8: an official spot in the title battle.
Forget about the “Big 3” right now, this moment is about “Ole No. 9” and he is not going to let up at any point, mark my words on that.
STAGE 1: Joey Logano
STAGE 2: Kevin Harvick
RESULTS: 1-Elliott 2-Kyle Busch 3-Larson 4-Jones 5-Truex Jr. 6-Keselowski 7-Blaney 8-Logano 9-Bowman 10-Almirola
NOTABLE FINISHES: 12-Harvick 13-Bowyer 18-Kurt Busch 26-Wallace
CAUTIONS: 3 for 17 laps. Lap 58-64 (#24 Fluid On Track); 82-86 (Stage 1 Conclusion); 162-166 (Stage 2 Conclusion).
LEAD CHANGES: 11 among 8 drivers. J. Logano 1-40; A. Allmendinger 41-49; B. Wallace 50-51; J. Logano 52-62; R. Stenhouse Jr. 63; R. Blaney 64-71; J. Logano 72-120; R. Blaney 121; B. Keselowski 122-137; K. Harvick 138-213; B. Keselowski 214-223; C. Elliott 224-267.
TIME OF RACE: 2 Hrs, 38 Mins, 2 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 152.713 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 0.903 Seconds
PLAYOFF STANDINGS (Earned/Behind Leader [Playoff Points]): 1. Kyle Busch, 4055 ; 2. Harvick, -1 ; 3. Truex Jr, -17 ; 4. Elliott, -37 ; 5. Bowyer, -40 ; 6. Logano, -40 ; 7. Kurt Busch, -40 ; 8. Almirola, -49 ; 9. Blaney, -1843; 10. Keselowski, -1861; 11. Larson, -1877; 12. Hamlin, -1896; 13. Dillon, -1905; 14. Jones, -1907; 15. Johnson, -1907; 16. Bowman, -1911.