PROGRAMMING NOTE: We’re shaking things up for the Playoffs here at Spade Racing! Rather than doing a “Burnout” post-race article (which I haven’t been able to do much lately anyways), there’ll be “Lap Zero” posts during the pre-race through to the end of the season.
The Playoffs. Formerly The Chase, It’s Nascar’s way of determining a champion. But why wait until Homestead to figure out who’s going to win it all—here’s Spade Racing’s preview of the 2019 post-season.
ELIMINATED AFTER THE ROVAL (Charlotte)
Ryan Newman—a prompt exit from contention will allow him to devote more time to building towards 2020, working on his “rescue ranch”, and spreading conspiracy theories about the moon landing.
William Byron—the official “Gets Eliminated, Then Goes On a Tear” driver of 2019. Expect to see him contend for a win or two before the season it out with the pressure being off.
Alex Bowman—the only driver with a win to go out in the first round, Bowman will quietly sink to the back before failing to win at the Roval. On the plus side, being out of the Playoffs will allow him to connect on a deeper level with Jimmie Johnson
Aric Almirola—needing a strong finish at the Roval, expect to see him come up jusssst a few points short, followed by an outburst. Although for someone as even-keeled as Double-A, expect that “outburst” to be a slight shaking of the head and possibly blaming everything on Brian Scott.
ELIMINATED AFTER KANSAS
Erik Jones—with the safety of a future contract with JGR in place, Jones will go into the offseason relaxed and ready to come on strong in 2020. Then again, I give it five minutes at Speedweeks before he starts getting asked if he’s going to swap rides with Christopher Bell in 2021.
Kyle Larson—sneaking past the first round, Larson will be in a “Win or Go Home” scenario at Kansas. Then he’ll scrape the wall, develop a vibration, have to pit, and wind up finishing the first car a lap down. As usual.
Joey Logano—how can this be? I’ll tell you: a bad day at Dover caused by a poor qualifying effort and a bad setup, followed by being caught up in the “big one” at Talladega. Joey comes up a little short at Kansas and is left with nothing. Well, besides his loving family, steady ride for one of the sport’s best teams, dozens of accolades and millions of dollars.
Ryan Blaney—Blaney is a point or two short after Kansas and is forced to look forward to next year. Which, granted, is a pretty good philosophy overall.
ELIMINATED AFTER PHOENIX
Clint Bowyer—after racing his way in at Kansas (leading to accusations that the race was fixed), Bowyer will have a rough day at Martinsville and never really recover. Somehow, people will say that one of the sport’s most-engaging drivers being eliminated is ALSO fixed.
Kurt Busch—quietly strong runs throughout the first two rounds aren’t enough momentum to overcome a bad day at Texas, putting him in too deep of a hole to come back at Phoenix. Then again, his mortal enemy is behind bars for a year and a day, so there’s that.
Brad Keselowski—a tough pill to swallow at Penske as all three of its drivers are eliminated before Homestead. They start work post-haste on a strong 2020 program with a name like “20/20 Vision” or “Mustang Momentum” or “Menard is Finally Gone”.
Martin Truex Jr.—does “so much adversity” get brought out again by Rick Allen?
ELIMINATED AT HOMESTEAD
4. Chase Elliott—the lone Chevy sneaks its way through the first round, then wins a Talladega Sweep, followed by three strong runs in the penultimate round. Then he has a crummy day at Homestead and people claim that it’ll lead to the death of the sport.
3. Kevin Harvick—a Playoff win and top-15s in all but one race have him as a favorite at Homestead, only for pit stop issues to sink their day. Kevin Harvick responds by firing his pit crew mid-race, forcing him to try and use a manual jack on his own car.
2. Kyle Busch—the odds-on favorite coming in has a spirited battle but comes up just a little bit short. So of course we get a smirking post-race interview and a vague threat to shut down his Truck team.
Denny Hamlin—only one win in the Playoffs but its the only one that matters—Phoenix. Then he finishes runner up at Homestead to clinch his first championship in the Cup Series. Oh, and who wins Homestead? William Byron, of course.