By Bob Pockrass
FOX Sports activities NASCAR Author
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — With a 25-point lead on Martin Truex Jr. for the ultimate playoff spot, Ryan Blaney needs he may really feel comfy about his playoff prospects.
And he may really feel considerably comfy, if not for the positioning of the regular-season finale Saturday.
Does Blaney imagine he controls his personal future?
“Not at Daytona,” he mentioned, “no.”
The 16-driver playoff discipline consists of the regular-season champion and 15 different drivers based mostly on the variety of victories, with ties damaged by factors.
Chase Elliott, who has 4 wins, has already gained the regular-season title. There are 14 different drivers with wins: Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Ross Chastain, Christopher Bell, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, William Byron, Alex Bowman, Daniel Suarez, Tyler Reddick, Denny Hamlin, Austin Cindric, Chase Briscoe and Kurt Busch.
That leaves one spot open for both the winless driver with probably the most factors or the motive force who data his first win of the 12 months Saturday at Daytona Worldwide Speedway — a observe identified for unpredictability and upsets.
These drivers would clinch a playoff spot with a win at Daytona: Blaney, Truex, Erik Jones, Aric Almirola, Austin Dillon, Bubba Wallace, Chris Buescher, Justin Haley, Michael McDowell, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Cole Custer, Brad Keselowski, Harrison Burton, Ty Dillon and Todd Gilliland.
Ryan Blaney on his present playoff odds
Ryan Blaney analyzes his possibilities to win within the closing two regular-season Cup races of 2022 and explains why he isn’t shedding sleep over his playoff prospects.
Blaney (third general within the regular-season level standings) and Truex (sixth) are the one drivers with a shot to get in on factors. Each appeared relaxed at Watkins Glen, even understanding what they confronted.
“I’ve slept nice this week,” Blaney mentioned. “No totally different than some other time. You may’t stress your self out about it. It’s both going to occur, or it isn’t, whether or not you make the playoffs or not.
“There are solely two decisions, two choices. You may’t stress out in regards to the negatives for those who do not make it. In case you stress your self out about that, then your thoughts is about on that, [and] you aren’t going to make it.”
Truex, the 2017 Cup champion, has made the championship spherical of the playoffs in 5 of the previous six years, recording three second-place finishes. To emphasize over making the playoffs is fairly international to him.
“I don’t suppose something compares to the stress you are feeling once you’re in a championship race,” mentioned Truex, who enters Daytona with a 33-race winless streak. “That is type of ‘youngster’s play.’ … We’ll do one of the best we will. There’s no magic bullet.
“We’ll simply go race laborious.”
Martin Truex Jr. on stress to make playoffs
Martin Truex Jr. says the stress to make the playoffs is “youngster’s play” in comparison with the stress a driver feels when racing for the championship.
Truex has by no means gained a race on the drafting superspeedways of Daytona and Talladega. However he gained the opening two phases of the Daytona 500 this 12 months and has come shut a number of occasions.
Blaney gained the cutoff race at Daytona final 12 months — he has now gone 35 races and not using a victory — and almost gained the Daytona 500 in February, however his teammate Austin Cindric threw a tough block on him to grab the trophy. Others among the many win-and-in hopefuls who’ve a Cup win at Daytona on their résumés are Jones, Almirola, Austin Dillon, Haley, McDowell, Stenhouse and Keselowski.
“Figuring out that for those who win, you’re in, that’s added that very same degree of [Daytona 500] pleasure for the followers and angst for the drivers,” Almirola mentioned.
“At the least for the drivers that should make it in. You go there with loads of stress and feeling there’s loads of weight on you to get it finished.”
Many drivers entered Watkins Glen final weekend understanding that road-course racing wasn’t their power and setting their sights on Daytona as their probably path to the playoffs.
In addition they know simply how troublesome it’s to win a race. The present winless streaks for the drivers making an attempt to get in: Buescher (219), Stenhouse (188), Jones (108), Custer (80), Austin Dillon (78), McDowell (60), Haley (58), Keselowski (51), Almirola (39), Blaney (35), Truex (33) and Wallace (29).
Ty Dillon (191 profession begins), Burton (26) and Gilliland (25) have by no means gained a Cup race.
“You go to Daytona with a sure degree of stress that’s actually excessive, feeling prefer it’s your final shot,” Almirola mentioned. “Each single 12 months once we begin the season, our objective is to win races, make the playoffs, go run for a championship.”
Aric Almirola on the stress going into Daytona
Aric Almirola describes the stress drivers really feel, understanding that Daytona is their final shot to make the NASCAR postseason.
Drivers want assist in the draft at Daytona, and it’s anticipated by their producers that they’re going to assist these inside their model.
However the cutoff race at Daytona may current a driver with an fascinating selection: Assist a teammate or a pal win, or assist a driver who isn’t thought of a championship contender to ensure neither Blaney nor Truex — championship contenders in the event that they make the playoffs — will get within the postseason.
Jones, who’s seventeenth within the Cup standings, wouldn’t thoughts if somebody feels that manner and pushes him to the win.
“I like that mentality,” he mentioned with amusing. “In the event that they wish to assist me out, I’m greater than keen [to take it].
“I feel we’ll have a quick automobile, for certain, so I feel folks will wish to work with us simply due to that.”
Erik Jones on his mindset going into Daytona
Erik Jones must win at Daytona to make the playoffs. Will somebody push him to the win? Does the truth that he isn’t considered as championship risk doubtlessly assist?
The drivers who have to win may plan to race close to the rear of the sphere in hopes of avoiding any massive wrecks. Others gained’t wish to race their manner by means of the sphere at what may very well be a frenetic end as a result of that may require much more dicey strikes and will set off an accident.
“It may very well be a deal the place you’ve received loads of guys that the one factor that issues to them is win, so they won’t be up there racing as laborious,” Austin Dillon mentioned.
“And you’ve got a few guys that most likely suppose they may maintain observe place all day, and that’s how we’re going to win.”
Whereas all of them can have the stress to win, they know, as Blaney mentioned, that they’ll do solely a lot.
“Hopefully we will go win Daytona and run ok to make it,” Blaney mentioned. “That’s all we will do.”
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Quick Ideas with Bob Pockrass: Was Larson’s transfer on Elliott over the road?
Bob Pockrass breaks down whether or not he thinks Kyle Larson’s transfer on Chase Elliott to win at Watkins Glen crossed the road.
Pondering out loud
It was most likely a little bit irritating to followers that NASCAR delayed the beginning of the Watkins Glen race to deal with some puddles on the observe, however after what NASCAR skilled final 12 months at Circuit of the Americas, it was the correct resolution.
Drivers mentioned they have been involved about visibility through the tempo laps. About half mentioned the observe was not in situation to race. Have been some motivated by not eager to race within the rain? Possibly. However on this occasion, NASCAR must err on the facet of warning.
The wrecks final 12 months at COTA, when drivers couldn’t see amid the rain and spray off their tires, should not one thing that may be repeated. NASCAR made certain of that. Regardless that the race maybe began half-hour later than wished, it was the correct name to ensure the observe was protected to race.
Stat of the day
Kyle Larson grew to become the second driver to comb the Xfinity and Cup races at Watkins Glen. The opposite? Joey Logano in 2015.
They mentioned it
“I received in there scorching. I did what I needed to do to win. Once more, I am not essentially happy with it, particularly with a teammate, however I really feel like I needed to execute that approach to get the win.” — Kyle Larson after muscling his well beyond Chase Elliott with 5 laps remaining Sunday
Bob Pockrass has spent a long time protecting motorsports, together with the previous 30 Daytona 500s. He joined FOX Sports activities in 2019 following stints at ESPN, Sporting Information, NASCAR Scene journal and The (Daytona Seaside) Information-Journal. Comply with him on Twitter and Instagram @bobpockrass. Searching for extra NASCAR content material? Join the FOX Sports activities NASCAR E-newsletter with Bob Pockrass!
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