After an aggression-filled first round, NASCAR heads into round two of the playoffs. With now three races left until the next cutoff and four more drivers facing elimination, tempers are bound to flare even more. Let’s take a look at what the next three weeks are going to look like in the Cup series. Here is the NASCAR 2021 Playoffs Round Two Preview!
Late Season Rivalries Building
In the round one cutoff race at Bristol, Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott had some choice words for one another. Both drivers were fighting for the race win late. But the battle between the two slowed down the drivers and gave Kyle Larson the chance to slip away for his sixth win on the year. Harvick, who had nine wins last season, has yet to see victory lane in 2021. Heading into round two, I’m sure Harvick is looking to leave Vegas with a lock-in for round three and a trophy.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway is next up on the schedule. Earlier in the season, Kyle Larson grabbed his first win with Hendrick. As the standings sit now, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Christopher Bell, and Kevin Harvick are below the cutline. Out of three of those drivers, they share a combined seven wins at the track. A win for one of them could completely change the tides of any of their playoff runs.
Talladega Superspeedway is a big wildcard track. The 2.66-mile oval is known for its exciting three-wide racing and “the big one”. When you throw in 30-something drivers, twelve of which are racing for a championship. Chaos is bound to ensue. Anyone has a chance to go home victorious and with how this season has been. A “surprise” winner is not out of the realm of possibility.
In the three years that the Charlotte Roval has been on the Cup Series schedule, only two drivers have won. Ryan Blaney won the inaugural race back in 2018 but since then, it has been all Chase Elliott. Last year, Elliott’s win at the Roval was the first of three playoff victories in his championship season. A win from the number 9 team could give them just what they need to go back-to-back.
Drivers to Watch
There are a handful of drivers that stand out among the rest as we head into the second round. Whether it’s good or bad, here are my drivers to watch over the next three weeks.
Alex Bowman has three wins on the season. But as of late, he’s been rather quiet. He had a rough time a few weeks ago at Darlington which led to him being on the verge of elimination. But last weekend at Bristol, he grabbed a fifth-place finish. If things continue to look up, he could end up in the late stages of the playoffs.
Along with Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin has been uncharacteristic this season. He grabbed his first win on the season at Darlington and outside of winning, has been very consistent in his finishes. With him being more of an all-around driver, he can win anywhere. Which he is going to need to do to go any further in the playoffs. I’d say keep an eye on him, but I feel like he’ll be in the spotlight quite a bit in the next three races.
The youngest Team Penske driver, Ryan Blaney, has had a career-best season with three wins. Two of which were back-to-back. Although he has some trouble at road courses. I could see him finishing well enough at least at Vegas and Talladega to push him further up the standings. Then again, he does have a win at the Roval, so anything can happen.
The man that everyone has been trying to beat all season is Kyle Larson. With six wins so far, he is the top driver in the series at this point. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him grab two or more wins before the season is up, possibly even the championship if his dominance continues.