5 burning questions for the Round of 12

How Many Toyota’s Will Be Left After The 2nd Round?

Toyota had just 3 of their 6 full time drivers become playoff eligible entering the last round. Due to 2 engine problems in 3 races, 1 of them is already out. With 2 drivers left, how many are left standing once the checkered flag drops on the Charlotte ROVAL in a couple of weeks?

It’s really all up to Texas.

Superspeedway’s and road courses haven’t been their strong suits this season.

Denny Hamlin’s usually a threat on superspeedway’s but his finishes on them this year are 37th, 29th, 18th, 25th and 25th. On road courses, he was only 18th, 31st, 17th, 14th and 20th. Could be a tough round if he doesn’t start off on the right footing at Texas.

Same for Christopher Bell. He was 3rd, 27th, 18th, 12th and 8th on road courses and 34th, 23rd, 22nd, 19th and 36th on superspeedways. However, he has 3 top 5 finishes in 3 playoff races run this year and was 3rd in both of his last Texas starts too.

Toyota has had their fair share of mechanical problems lately so they need to hope none of which occurs this round of they could be shutout of the Round of 8.

BRISTOL, TENNESSEE – SEPTEMBER 17: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Busch Light Ford, and Daniel Suarez, driver of the #99 Tootsies Orchid Lounge Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on September 17, 2022 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

Between Both Rookies, Trackhouse Cars, How Many Are Eliminated In Round of 12?

Both rookies in this year’s playoffs made it through to the Round of 12. So did both Trackhouse drivers. One would think that these are your 4 drivers that will get eliminated this round. I mean none of them have been here before.

Plus, it’s not like they enter with much momentum either.

Ross Chastain has 2 straight top 10’s on the season but no top 5’s in the last 10. He also has just 1 top 10 in the last 4 starts on intermediate tracks this year, did win Talladega this spring with 3 top 2’s in his last 4 superspeedway starts and should have 4 top 7’s in 5 road courses this year too. The thing is, only 4 times in the last 38 years did a driver sweep Talladega so the odds are long for Chastain to be the 5th.

Daniel Suarez has 6 finishes of 18th or worse in his last 8 starts on the season. He also has just 1 top 15 finish in the last 6 intermediate starts, was 31st in Talladega as well as 18th and 24th in the 2 Daytona starts. Road courses are his strong suit however with 3 top 5’s in his last 5 including a win at Sonoma.

What about the Rookies?

Austin Cindric has finished 16th, 12th, 20th in the playoffs. His best opportunity is after Texas in that he has 3 top 3’s in 5 superspeedway races this season and 8th, 5th, 7th, 2nd and 13th on road courses too.

Chase Briscoe has 0 top 10’s in his last 15 starts on the season. He has 2 top 15’s on intermediate tracks this year. In April at Talladega, he finished 37th. He was also 3rd and 31st in the 2 Daytona starts too, 15th and 16th in Atlanta and no top 10’s on road courses this year with a best result of 13th.

One could say half of them advance with a possibility of 3. You also could say none of them do either.

TALLADEGA, ALABAMA – APRIL 25: Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 MoneyLion Ford, Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, and Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 Menards/Sylvania Ford, race during the NASCAR Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on April 25, 2021 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Toughest Round Of The Playoffs?

The 2nd round of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs may be the most difficult 3 week stretch of the season. Texas, Talladega and the Charlotte ROVAL. The final 2 races are wildcards where anything can happen. Anything will too.

With the postseason going from 12 drivers to 8 in this round, one could say this is the toughest round to compete in because a lot of it is time out of your control.

However, the Round of 8 could be seen as just as difficult. While the tracks are more geared towards the drivers, the intensity level also picks up. The 8 drivers left standings are there for a reason and to beat at least 4 of them, it’s going to take an all our war.

Pressure rises. Tension mounts. It’s 3 weeks of hell to be one of the 4 lucky ones vying for a championship a week later. The final race is a short track to where you have to have your elbows out. Even if you’re not an aggressive driver, if you’re part of the Round of 8 still, you better make yourself one.

So which is tougher?

That makes Texas so important because in this round, it’s really the only place to where you can control your own destiny. The rest of the race you need some help in.

“Looking at the next seven races, I would say Texas is arguably the most important race, outside of Phoenix (the championship race),” Bell said. “Talladega, we all know how that is – there is going to be some lucky guys, and some unlucky guys.

“Texas is kind of the one place where you can control your destiny into the next round and the winner is going to feel really good if it is a playoff car.”

DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 20: Austin Cindric, driver of the #2 Discount Tire Ford, celebrates in the Ruoff Mortgage victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series 64th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 20, 2022 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Biggest Sleeper?

Has to be Austin Cindric, right? He can win at 2 of the 3 races this round and get all the way to the Round of 8.

Are We In The Midst Of A New Era In NASCAR?

I say it a lot that we’re not in your granddad’s or even dad’s NASCAR anymore. Well, this year’s playoffs further that trend. Many of us like to think age is just a number, but is it truly that way? When digging through the stats on the NASCAR Cup Series champions, one three-year age window stands out above the rest when it comes to a driver’s age at the time of their first title – 28-30 years old. Of the 35 different series champions 10 of them (the most in a three-year span at 28.5%) have earned their first NASCAR Cup Series title between the ages of 28 and 30; including four active champions Joey Logano (28), Brad Keselowski (28), Kyle Larson (29) and Kyle Busch (30).

Looking at this year’s playoff drivers, 10 of the 16 drivers were under the age of 30. However, 3 drivers are currently in the window of 28 to 30 years old and looking for their first NASCAR Cup Series title – Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney (28), Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain (29) and Daniel Suárez (30). Plus, keep in mind, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe (also a winner this season) are both 27 years old and will be turning 28 at the end of this year in December.

All those drivers mentioned are still left in the playoffs.

Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr. won the first 4 championships in this new era. However, the tide has now shifted. Johnson is retired, Truex didn’t even make the playoffs and Harvick as well as Busch were eliminated in the first round of this year’s playoffs.

The new era is here. Among the 12 drivers left, 10 of them are 30 or younger. The drivers and their ages left? Denny Hamlin (41), Joey Logano (32), Kyle Larson (30), Daniel Suarez (30), Ross Chastain (29), Alex Bowman (29), Ryan Blaney (28), Chase Briscoe (27), Christopher Bell (27), Chase Elliott (26), Austin Cindric (24) and William Byron (24). Only Hamlin is older than 32. Logano won the 2018 championship. He’s still here. Busch won 2019 before Elliott and Larson won the last 2. 2 of those 3 are still here. The tide has shifted.

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