Friday, 19 April 2024

NASCAR PLAYOFFS: Joey Logano will earn 2nd straight Cup title; Byron, Busch and Truex to make Final Four Featured

Posted On Monday, 28 August 2023 22:35 Written by
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Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Ford for Team Penske, celebrates in victory lane after winning the Cup series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 19, 2023. Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Ford for Team Penske, celebrates in victory lane after winning the Cup series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 19, 2023. Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Saturday’s race at Daytona was an exciting conclusion to a season where we’ve seen everything under the sun, as we finished our second regular season with the Next Gen car.

The three-wide racing for much of the night was downright thrilling and the best of what plate racing has to offer. On the flip side, no pun intended, Ryan Preece went on a terrifying ride when he barrel rolled at least a dozen times before finally landing right-side up. Thankfully he did not sustain any serious injuries, nor did any of the drivers involved in a “big one” at the end of the second stage.

While the extreme tumbling is cause for investigation by NASCAR (and they are examining the Preece car for data on why that happened), the fact that Preece could walk away shows that the Next Gen car has the goods to keep drivers safe even in extreme wreck situations like the one Preece experienced on Saturday.

The big news, of course was Bubba Wallace’s strong run that locked him into the final playoffs spot. Making the playoffs is a big burden off Bubba’s shoulders. And now he just has to perform and try to get as far along in the playoffs as possible. This will be a tough task to execute, with so many strong drivers ahead of him. But if he makes it to at least the round of 12, I would consider that a successful year and a launch pad for further playoff marches in the future.

Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman both missed the playoffs, and it’s been a rough year for Hendrick, which has only 2 cars in the playoffs. William Byron and Kyle Larson qualified and should both be contenders. But to put that in perspective, the Hendrick team only qualified as many cars as RFK Racing and 23XI racing, and one less than Joe Gibbs Racing.

While the missed races this season for Elliott and Bowman due to injury are obvious reasons for their lack of playoff qualification this year, it’s still got to be a tough pill to swallow for the biggest team in NASCAR.

To set up the field in total: Of the 16 playoff drivers, 3 are from Joe Gibbs Racing, 2 are Hendrick drivers, 2 are from 23XI, 2 are from RFK Racing, 2 are Team Penske, 1 is from Childress, 1 from Trackhouse, 1 from JTG Daugherty, 1 from Front Row Motorsports, and 1 is from Stewart-Haas Racing. 

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PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS

Here’s how I see the playoffs going in 2023, including eliminations by round and winners of each race.

First round: (Darlington, Kansas, Bristol)
RACE WINNERS: Kyle Busch (Darlington), Bubba Wallace (Kansas), Martin Truex Jr. (Bristol)
Eliminated: Michael McDowell, Kevin Harvick, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Brad Keselowski
— A magical year for McDowell will fizzle in first round of playoffs, as the Front Row team won’t be able to pull off any more miracles.
— Harvick’s final year would be a great success story if he can advance far in the playoffs, but the way SHR is running this year I highly doubt we’ll see a Cinderella end to his career.
— Stenhouse was always going to exit early; there is just not enough consistency in the 47 team. But winning Daytona and making the playoffs is huge for that squad.
— Keselowski should be proud of RFK’s progress in 2023, but I don’t see him making the second round (his teammate is another story).

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Round of 12: (Texas, Talladega, Charlotte Roval)
RACE WINNERS: William Byron (Texas), Ross Chastain (Talladega), Tyler Reddick (Charlotte Roval)
Eliminated: Bubba Wallace, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin
— This is quite a wild card round, with a road course and superspeedway included
— Road course struggles may lead to Wallace’s playoff exit at Roval
— Blaney’s been decent but not spectacular this year. Won’t make the Elite Eight without some good fortune
— Larson not in championship form this year
— Hamlin has contract negotiations in the background, could prove distracting

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Round of 8: (Las Vegas, Homestead, Martinsville)
RACE WINNERS: Kyle Busch (Las Vegas), Joey Logano (Homestead), Martin Truex Jr. (Martinsville)
Eliminated: Ross Chastain, Tyler Reddick, Chris Buescher, Christopher Bell
— Trackhouse can’t pull off another Hail Melon this year; Ross is out before Final Four
— Reddick’s exit will mean end of playoffs for 23XI Racing
— Buescher’s brilliant 2023 campaign will fall just short of the Final Four
— Bell will fall just short, leaving Truex as final Toyota title contender

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Final Four/Championship Race (Phoenix)
REMAINING CONTENDERS: William Byron, Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr.
Winner/champion: Joey Logano
— Logano has been somewhat under the radar this year, but will shine when it matters most and claim his second straight championship, and third overall title.

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Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

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