Hello race fans. Since we last met, Denny Hamlin won at Bristol to a chorus of boos usually saved for Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick was eliminated from the playoffs, Sherry Pollex passed away after a brave battle with cancer, and now Byron Williams wins at Texas to secure his position in the Round of 8.
(Photo by Jim Fluharty/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Williams led only 6 laps but they were the most important laps and he put lap leader and polesitter Bubba Wallace down 2 below the playoff cutline. Bubba had a career day going and a bad restart after Kyle Larson lost it put Bubba finishing in P3 which just wasn’t enough to keep him above the cutoff line.
Also below the cutoff are Tyler Reddick (-3), Ryan Blaney (-11) and Kyle Busch (-17). None of those are insurmountable deficits considering the next race is at Talladega. Denny Hamlin, Bubba Wallace, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott and Ross Chastain are recent Talladega winners so the fight to stay in the playoffs will be palpable. Points are more important as the field gets through each round. Surpassing another driver above the cut line becomes more difficult and winning becomes more important. Normally P3 would be a decent day but when many of the other playoff drivers you are chasing have Top 10 finishes, you are in a tough position.
Things of note: Sherry Pollex
Sherry Pollex, longtime partner of Martin Truex, Jr., passed away from ovarian cancer at the age of 44. Diagnosed in 2014, she fought cancer and helped to start the Martin Truex, Jr. Foundation which became a charity focused on children’s cancer and ovarian cancer. She also founded SherryStrong.org and a clinic called Sherry Strong Integrative Medicine Oncology in Charlotte, NC.
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She and Truex boke up earlier in 2023.
Our thoughts and prayers are with her and her family.
What can you say that hasn’t already been said? This is almost always a good race and tensions will be high to say the least.
The top rated drivers since 2020 are Erik Jones and Ryan Blaney. Blaney will have his work cut out for him to stay in the fight with the final round race at the Charlotte Road Course. You want to do really well at Talladega in spite of all the pitfalls of the track brings. Speed and drafting ability are key at Talladega. Handling is less important but you don’t want to have your end lose grip in a pack of 30 cars. Your car must handle well in the draft.
It’s hard to pick a favorite with a different winner in the last 6 races and aside from Denny Hamlin in 2020, the race winner hasn’t led more than 10 laps on their way to victory. Hamlin led 26, so not a ton of laps in that case either.
Blind luck may have more to do with having a good finish than your ability to put your car in a position to win. Keep the shiny side up!