Suarez best shot at last in NASCAR playoffs
September 05, 2018 3:03 AM
by Micah Roberts
The final NASCAR Cup Series race of the regular season is this weekend on the storied grounds of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the most famous race track in the world.
Sunday’s race is the first time the Cup Series hasn’t raced in early August or late July. It’s the last chance for the drivers outside the top-16 in points to make the Playoffs, which begins next week in Las Vegas.
The Playoff field is basically set with the exception of a new driver winning a race. Win the race, make the Playoffs is what drivers like Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ryan Newman, Paul Menard, Daniel Suarez, Jamie McMurray and William Byron will all be shooting for this weekend. Those are the six drivers that have a legitimate shot of actually winning.
The first case to be made for one of those six winning is that we’ve seen a new driver win for the first time this season in three of the past four races, including the last two. Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, and Martin Truex Jr. have combined to win 17 of the 25 races this season, but things are evening out. Chevrolet is finding lots of speed lately, such as the team of Hendrick Motorsports who have three cars in the Playoffs with rookie William Byron, in Gordon’s famed No. 24, needing to win to join his teammates.
Daniel Suarez also fits the bill as a possible candidate to win and make the Playoffs because he was runner-up in that Pocono race, leading three times for 29 laps. His Joe Gibbs teammate, Kyle Busch, won at Pocono and has won two of the past three at the Brickyard. Suarez has never won a Cup race, but expect him to have a great car Sunday capable of winning.
As for Paul Menard in his Wood Brothers No. 21 Ford, his only career win came in the 2011 Brickyard 400 while driving for Richard Childress Racing. Jamie McMurray won the 2010 Brickyard 400 and has had cars that are almost as good as his Ganassi Racing teammate Kyle Larson. Ryan Newman’s No. 31 RCR Chevrolet showed great speed last week at Darlington during practices and was competitive during the race before getting wrecked. He dreamed of winning the Indy as a kid growing up in Indiana but settled on winning on his hometown track in the 2013 Brickyard 400.
And then there’s the curious case of last year’s winner, Kasey Kahne, winning in a lame duck situation for Hendrick Motorsports. He knew he wasn’t coming back to the team for 2018 and managed to find a great set-up and pull off the upset.
With Chevrolet showing speed lately, it comes at a perfect time because they’ve dominated at Indy winning 17 of the 24 Brickyard 400s. Chevy has won 13 of the past 15, including 12 straight from 2003 to 2014, which culminated with Gordon winning his fifth and final time at Indy, a track record Jimmie Johnson could tie with a win. Johnson has never gone this long into a season without a win, but remember, HMS and Chevrolet are now faster. This should be a good spot for the seven-time champ to run well.
Enjoy the race and good luck on all your wagers.