A look at the drivers and teams still in the hunt for the NASCAR Cup Series championship in the ‘Round of 8’ does not reveal very much in the way of parity among the teams as only three organizations are represented among the remaining hopefuls. But on that same note, there does appear to be a certain degree of equality among the auto manufacturers who participate at the highest level of stock car racing as each of the three car makers involved in the sport still have a chance to emerge from the NASCAR Playoffs as a champion.
Joe Gibbs Racing, Team Penske and Hendrick Motorsports make up the entire Playoff picture with just three races remaining on the 2021 NASCAR schedule. The sanctioning body would most likely prefer to have more of the sport’s organizations still alive in the title chase. In 2020, these same three companies were a part of the ‘Round of 8’ but were also joined by Stewart-Haas Racing as a fourth participant.
But while NASCAR would probably like to see greater variety in the number of organizations still with hope at this late stages, the leaders of the sport almost certainly have to pleased that each of its contributing car builders is still in the hunt.
JGR has three Toyota machines still in contention with drivers Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. Ford also has three Team Penske runners in the mix with pilots Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney. And even though Chevrolet, represented by HMS, has one fewer car than their competitors, they are, for now, in the driver’s seat with Kyle Larson already having punched his ticket to the Championship 4 race in Phoenix while Chase Elliott still has an opportunity to do the same.
This season could play out much the same as last year when the two Fords of Keselowski and Logano were joined in the Phoenix finale by the Chevrolet of eventual champion Elliott and Hamlin’s Toyota. All three makes went to the desert southwest with a chance and that could very easily happen again.
It is obviously in the best interest of NASCAR and the sport as a whole to have as many of its supporters as possible enjoying success not only on the track but also in the marketplace. And while few if any people actually make a car purchase these days based on whether or not that brand wins races or championships, the added positive exposure for those who sell those brands of vehicles never hurts.
NASCAR, like any other sports organization, needs all the positive publicity it can get. So, there are no doubt some championship scenarios that would be more welcome than others in terms of which individual driver hoists the trophy. But at the same time, the fact that the three auto manufacturers are still alive with a chance to win the title is undoubtedly considered good news in the corporate offices of Daytona Beach.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association
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