The 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) schedule held one of the biggest three-race stretches that has ever been run in the history of the sport. The series left its stop at the famed Southern 500 at Darlington to go to the Brickyard 400 as the final race before the playoffs. That lead into the first ever playoff race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this week. All in all, it was a pretty unimaginable stretch of races, and Brad Keselowski won all three.
Brad Keselowski shows he could be favorite to win Title
After a series of stunning events that left half of the MENCS Playoff field with damage of some kind, Keselowski managed his restarts late in the race to a tee in an effort that brought him a third straight victory.
The win secures Keselowski a spot in the next round of the playoffs and also awards him five more playoff points to start with in round two, bringing his total up to 24 points. That’s big.
The last race in the round features Charlotte’s completely new – and unique – “roval”. Anything can happen. To have the momentum coming into the playoffs with two wins and then to get a third and punch the ticket to the quarterfinals before arriving there is the best situation a driver could ask for.
With those advantages, it wouldn’t be outlandish to think that Keselowski has a great shot at bringing home his second career championship. With how much of a wild card the race at Las Vegas was, there might be a contender that finds himself being eliminated early.
Though, early on in Sunday’s South Point 400, it didn’t seem like a race that might feature a plethora of accidents. The likes of Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. were pacing the field, as they have done time and time again at 1.5-mile tracks this season. The top 15 drivers in the field were made up of 13 MENCS playoff competitors.
The competition at the front of the field was stout. Then, on lap 147, the race’s biggest threat to win in Harivck, cut a right-front tire and sent his car into the wall. The incident collected pole-sitter Erik Jones, who slammed into the back of the No. 4 car, ending both of the two drivers’ days.
That wasn’t the end of it either. Later in the race, Chase Elliott was collected with Jamie McMurray in an accident, which sent him back to P36. Elliott is now outside of the cutoff as well.
Overall, eight of the top 11 finishers were MENCS playoff competitors. The other half featured Alex Bowman in P19, Kurt Busch in P21, Jimmie Johnson in P22, Clint Bowyer in P23, Denny Hamlin in P32, Elliott in P36, and Harvick and Jones rounding out the last two spots.
That’s created a complete shakeup in the standings.
|Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Grid|
|After 1 race of the Round of 16|
|1||W – Brad Keselowski||2069|
|2||Martin Truex Jr.||2087||65|
Jones, who was sitting in a tie for 10th in the standings coming into Vegas, exits with a P39 finish and a booming 19-point cutoff deficit. Not to mention, his teammate in Hamlin fills in the spot just under Jones after finishing P36.
Hendrick Motorsports had similar luck. All three of their playoff drivers are sitting right next to the cutoff. For both them and Joe Gibbs Racing, the next two races could be a nightmare when it comes to who is moving on. The only team who is really safe outside of the big three is again the No. 2 team.
The next two races will round out the Round of 16 at Richmond International Raceway on Saturday night and the Charlotte Roval Race in two weeks.
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