The first round of the 2022 Cup Series playoffs is in the books. In an already crazy 2022 season, the first three races in the playoffs have produced three new winners this season, all three being non playoff eligible drivers. Texas in the past has proven to be unpredictable, just like this season to date. As the round of 12 starts, so does the desperation from drivers to score a victory. Will the trend of non playoff drivers winning continue?
After Chris Buescher swiped the sword away at Bristol, we saw four drivers eliminated from contention for the 2022 title. Tyler Reddick and Austin Dillon (RCR), Kyle Busch (JGR), and Kevin Harvick (SHR), have all had their hopes go up in smoke after engine failures and incidents on track at the half-mile short track. Drivers that snuck into the Round of 12 include rookie and Daytona 500 champ Austin Cindric, 2016 Xfinity Champ Daniel Suarez, and the young Chase Briscoe. Can one of these underdogs rise to the challenge and win at Texas this weekend?
Unfortunately for Texas, it normally is one of the more boring races to watch. However, that doesn’t mean that the storylines of the start of the Round of 12 won’t make the weekend exciting.
Let’s talk about favorites for this weekend. I’m not looking at anyone to win that is not in the playoffs currently. I see one of the Round of 12 drivers, having an incredible run.
First pick, give me Kyle Larson. Last season, he dominated this track winning both races on the schedule. Larson will head into this weekend after a decent Round of 16. He finished 12th in the Southern 500, 8th at Kansas, and 5th at Bristol. He wasn’t really ever in contention for the wins, but he was always able to snag a great finish. I see Larson as the first pick for this weekend and he will want to lock up that Round of 8 spot and his 3rd win of the season.
Second pick will be Christopher Bell. Bell has been the most consistent driver at JGR over the second half of the season. He has gotten Top 5 after Top 5 and was the first driver locked into the Round of 12. In the past two seasons, Bell has finished 3rd in the Fall Texas date. Back in 2020, that third place finish was his rookie year at Leavine Family Motorsports, a team that is now defunct. LFM was not the best team, but with Toyota backing and a driver like Bell behind the wheel they were in contention for the W. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the 20 in victory lane this weekend, and I think Christopher is a serious Darkhorse that not many will pick.
Finally, who is due for a bad run? Out of the remaining playoff guys, I’m not going to say that any Hendrick or Joe Gibbs Racing drivers will have terrible days at Texas. However, I just have a feeling that the Round of 12 will not be good for the driver of the #1. Ross Chastain is coming off a decent first round and is desperately wanting a great finish this weekend. Last season with Chip Ganassi Racing, Chastain finished P28. Not a great showing for the Melon Man. I hope I’m wrong but with Talladega and the Roval next. I think Chastain and #1 team will miss the 2022 Round of 8.
The Nascar Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway will be on Sunday September 25th at 3:30PM EST on USA Network. Also tune into this week's episode of the INDY BOYS: Racing Podcast to hear Tristan Grider, Justin Cox, and Daniel Chaney’s opinion on how Texas will go down! 9/22/22, 7PM EST on YouTube or wherever you get your podcasts.
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