With Chris Buescher’s victory in last Saturday night’s Bass Pro Shops Night Race at the Bristol (Tenn) Motor Speedway, it marked a clean sweep of the opening round races for non playoff drivers. That’s highly unique. We’ve never seen that happen before. But we’ve also never seen the amount of parity before either in terms of the entire season.
This Next Gen car has changed everything.
19 of the 32 full-time drivers have won a points paying race. If you factor in the Duels and the All-Star race, you get 21 of the 32 drivers reaching victory lane.
That’s why even though not a single playoff drivers has won a playoff race yet, we also shouldn’t be surprised either.
“These things are equal, and if you hit it right, you’re fast,” Ross Chastain said last week. “We saw both RFK cars (were) just better than everybody tonight. Either one of them could have won. I don’t think they do that last year.”
Kyle Larson agreed. The defending NASCAR Cup Series champion said this is all a byproduct of everyone having the same parts on their cars. There’s no innovation anymore.
Another factor is that in the past, the teams that had already won a race would save their best equipment for the end to when it mattered the most. Why waste it on regular season races that don’t matter as much to them.
“When we used to build our own cars and design our own cars, we would just save the best stuff for the end of the season,” Denny Hamlin said. “Everyone would front-load a lot of their best people, best parts, best bodies, best cars for the playoffs. There’s no secret the ones who kept advancing, the cars just got faster. They started pushing tech a little bit more. It wasn’t a coincidence the final four is always 1-2-3-4 (in the race).”
That’s partially why when we got to the playoffs, the playoff cars looked like they resided in a different zip code. Plus in past seasons, the playoff drivers were in the playoffs for a reason. This year, there’s not much difference between the playoff drivers and the non playoff drivers. The gap was dwindled.
“I don’t think anybody is safe,” Chase Elliott said. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to have the points and I’m glad that we had a good regular season to be able to make that happen, but nobody is safe in these rounds.”