*Turn 2 Blog is a regular feature on InsideCircleTrack.com. Here, site operators Michael Moats and Richard Allen take turns offering their thoughts on the NASCAR and pavement short track racing topics of the day.
On Sunday in the Advent Health 400 at Kansas Speedway, Kurt Busch became the eleventh different winner in the first thirteen NASCAR Cup Series races in the 2022 season. With still thirteen more races to go before the NASCAR Playoffs cut, could there be sixteen or more winners?
Richard: In years past I have not given much consideration to the possibility of there being sixteen different winners in the first 26 races of the season. But when you consider that there have been a couple of unexpected victors already this season, I think there is the real possibility that it could happen this time around.
Blaney, Truex, Bell, Harvick, Almirola, Dillon and Reddick are all drivers who entered Sunday’s race inside the top-16 in points but have yet to win a race. And keep in mind that, with the exception of Reddick, each of those drivers has won races during their Cup careers so the ability to do so is there. Those are seven drivers vying for five remaining Playoff spots.
And besides those listed above, there are several who could get a win at certain tracks if everything were to fall in place. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. could win at Daytona, Michael McDowell is very good at Daytona and on road courses, and Erik Jones has actually been in position to win on a couple of occasions this season. Bubba Wallace and Chris Buescher have had moments in which they displayed strength, and of course, there is always that chance for an oddity to occur like that which allowed Justin Haley to win at Daytona a few years ago.
The regular season champion is locked into the Playoffs even without a win and there is still the realistic possibility that Blaney could achieve that. We could actually see a scenario in which a driver who has won a race does make the cut.
I don’t actually believe there will be sixteen or more different winners before the Playoff cut but I wouldn’t bet the farm on that.
Michael: I never thought there would ever be 16 different winners in a season. The odds are against that happening. But as we have seen in recent weeks, a driver can be struggling for a few weeks and then find themselves in victory lane.
With some wild card races still ahead, I can see several more winners emerge. As you mentioned, drivers like Harvick, Truex, Blaney, and Reddick are drivers who could and should get a win soon. Also, factor in a new Cup Series track coming up in a few weeks could produce an unexpected winner.
Kurt Busch entered the Advent Health 400 at Kansas Speedway 21st in points and now he has a win that, in all likelihood, will grant him admission to the NASCAR Playoffs. Relying on points alone to make the Playoffs is pretty risky business, isn’t it?
Richard: This question is kind of a continuation of the previous, but no, teams should not be relying solely on points to make the NASCAR Playoffs. As stated above there are several drivers within the top-16 who do not yet have a win to their credit. With two winning drivers(Austin Cindric & Kurt Busch) outside the top-16, that means there are already two of those without a win who would be kicked out if the cut were made today.
Not that they do anyway, but I don’t see how any team can think of playing it safe and pointing their way in. The mentality now has to be that of the old Al Davis-owned Oakland Raiders- “Just win, baby”.
Michael: I don’t think teams should be relying on points to make the playoff field until the last few races before the playoffs start. A win should almost guarantee a driver to be in, unless we get a situation like we discussed above.
Winning isn’t easy. I think all drivers with the top teams make an effort to win each and every week. But at least if they can’t win a race, they know they have points to fall back on.
Other than the money, is there any reason to take this coming weekend’s NASCAR All-Star Race seriously?
Richard: I will most likely watch the NASCAR All-Star Race but it has been a long time since I cared very much about it. That said, though, last year’s version was actually very entertaining. And of course, the drivers and teams care about the money.
I will say this, however. NASCAR’s All-Star event is probably the best among the sports I watch. The NFL has to come up with a format that will run as little risk as possible of getting a player hurt. The NBA’s game is a joke in that no one plays defense, and absolutely no one takes the MLB’s game seriously.
The skills contests leading into those events are often times better than the games themselves. That said, I will take the NASCAR All-Star Race only slightly seriously but still more so than those of any other sport.
Michael: I have always felt the All-Star Race was a bit of a misnomer because the race itself is matching competitors that compete against each other every week as it is. The stick and ball sports feature players being on the same team that are always on other teams. NASCAR doesn’t have that.
I will say those races from the early 90’s were some of the best ones. I don’t know if it was because Humpy Wheeler just knew how to promote it or the drivers were a different breed back then.
For many years, the Open race has always been my favorite because it’s drivers trying to get into the All-Star Race and it’s usually among drivers that are rarely in contention for a win. They lay it all on the line. It’s been a while since we’ve seen that in the All-Star Race itself.
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