Turn 2 Blog: Who won’t survive past the first round?

*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.

What driver will make a deeper run in the NASCAR Playoffs than anyone is expecting?

Richard: I’m not sure that a former champion who has as much experience as he does fits the question or not but I am going to say that Brad Keselowski makes it at least into the ‘Round of 8’. Even though it hasn’t been the No. 6 Ford doing the winning, the Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing team has caught fire lately with both drivers consistently running near the front of the pack.

Keselowski has finished five of the last eight races in the top-10. Considering that to advance into the second round, a driver only needs to beat out four of the sixteen which should be doable. Also, Keselowski has won at each of the three tracks within the first round(Darlington, Kansas and Bristol) which bodes well for his chances in the early Playoff races.

Furthermore, Ford has won four of the last five events between RFK’s Chris Buescher and Front Row Motorsports driver Michael McDowell.

As far as making it out of the second round, Keselowski has won six times at Talladega and looked very strong in finishing second behind his teammate at Daytona. While putting one’s eggs in the Talladega basket might be a hazardous option, this is a driver who could perform well under those circumstances.

Will Brad Keselowski make a deep Playoff run?

Michael: I’m going with Chris Buescher. I know he has won 3 races, but his name isn’t the first that comes to mind as far as being a championship contender goes. While I don’t think he will win the championship, he’s a good enough on all types of tracks to make a deep run.

We have noted in our blogs how Buescher has been one of the most improved drivers going back to last season. As soon as Brad Keselowski became a part owner, Buescher has elevated his performance.

What driver will fall out of the NASCAR Playoffs earlier than everyone expects?

Richard: I’m very leery of Kyle Larson’s inconsistency going into the Playoffs. The 2021 champion has two wins and 10 top-five finishes but he also has 11 results of 20th or worse this season. A couple of poor runs could have the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports team in a hole quickly.

Larson has had two top-ten finishes in his last six races with all others being 19th or worse. Of course, this is a driver and team that could get hot at any time just as Tony Stewart and his Stewart-Haas Racing crew did back in 2011. But it can also be very difficult to just flip the switch after being so hit-and-miss throughout the season.

I am predicting that Larson will make it out of the first round but that inconsistency will catch up to him during the next set of three races.

Will the Playoff runs of Kyle Larson and Ross Chastain go better than their Darlington runs?

Michael: I’m going with Ross Chastain. He has not done much since his win in Nashville. Trackhouse Racing hasn’t been as strong as they were last year. Daniel Suarez missed the playoffs and Chastain seems to have lost his edge. It just looks like Trackhouse has lost its mojo since Project 91 driver Shane van Gisbergen won at Chicago.

Another driver I’d be on the lookout to be a surprise early exit would be Kyle Busch. He’s another driver that hasn’t made much noise. I put Chastain over him because Busch almost always runs well at Bristol.

What drivers will be the first four to be eliminated from the NASCAR Playoffs?

Richard: I don’t think the tracks in the first round set up very well for Bubba Wallace, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Michael McDowell. And like Larson mentioned above, Ross Chastain has been very inconsistent this year so I will say that he will fail to move on following the first cut at Bristol.

Michael: My choices are Michael McDowell, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ross Chastain, and Tyler Reddick. Just like Chastain, Reddick hasn’t been on the top of his game in some time.

Please consider also reading:

Is Daytona the right place for a Playoff deciding race?

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