The saying goes, “It’s better to be lucky than good.” Well the fact of the matter is in the playoffs, it’s better to be BOTH lucky and good. It also helps to have an outstanding crew, a fast car, and a belief that things can happen to lend a hand in getting that win.
That is exactly what Chase Elliott had on Sunday, and in reality, has experienced all his career. It’s not until this season that things finally showed how good they can be, and once they came together, it was time to showcase what they could do.
Had it not been for a pit road penalty, the battle at Kansas likely would be Elliott against Kevin Harvick. Instead, it was Elliott battling Kyle Busch, and when it came time to get on the wheel and drive, Elliott out-dueled the veteran driver, and showed that he too is able to be a part of the championship conversation. Two for three in the second round surely will put everyone on notice, and many are now eyeing this kid to possibly surprise everyone at season’s end.
At the same time, while he went 2-for-3 in the round, combined the League participants went 0-for-27. Not one made it to victory lane, and some had extremely difficult struggles.
When the checkered flag waved, the NASCAR playoff field went from 12 drivers down to 8, with only two guaranteed spots secured entering the event. At the end of the day, the field in the League went from eight down to six, as a pair of veterans that every single year since it began have competed, now step aside.
Those that are still battling, their rules remain the same, but the difficulty increases. Six races, six drivers, and none of those six drivers can be picked again if they have already been used. The standings are reset, positions are seeded once again.
Here’s the playoff standings entering round three after the Hollywood Casino 400:
Penny Whitecotton – 4057 – Joey Logano finished 8th (7) 57
Billy Fellin – 4037 – Joey Logano finished 8th (5) 37
Trisha Rodisch – 4035 – Kevin Harvick finished 12th (6) 35
Ashley Hobbs – 4026 – Jimmie Johnson finished 22nd (5) 26
Misan Akuya – 4024 – Brad Keselowski finished 6th (4) 24
Sal Sigala Jr. – 4024 – Kevin Harvick finished 12th (4) 24
Rob Blount – 2209 – Kevin Harvick finished 12th (2)
Dustin Parks – 2181 – Kevin Harvick finished 12th (2)
Rob Tiongson – 2165 – Kurt Busch finished 18th (4)
Next Race: The pressure of the second round is gone, but now the pressure of being so close to a championship now begins to set in. The next round could be considered the round where anything can, and will, occur, because the realization of that championship being within reach makes every driver that much more eager. Often, that aggression leads to on-track run ins, and anger can boil over.
So, it seems the first race of this third round is appropriately set at a track where aggression can, and often does, occur. With tight corners, and no room to give, it is almost the perfect location to begin a new round of action. It also means some that fell out of the title hunt can steal some thunder, and also take the focus off those going for a championship.
In the end, everyone is going after a grandfather clock, because the first race of round three happens in Martinsville.
Participants, the six of you still competing must still follow the rules. While the rest of you have free reign. But, everyone’s picks have to be locked in by Thursday, October 25, at 10 p.m. ET for the First Data 500.