How far will Ryan Blaney go in the playoffs?

Ryan Blaney is the only driver without a win in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. That matters? And how far will Blaney go?

Anthony Damcott: Ryan Blaney’s consistency this season should give him the confidence to attempt a deep playoff run. He’s not entering the playoffs without points, either: His stage wins and his final in the regular-season standings have given him 13 points to use throughout his career. While a win would be nice (not just for his playoff run but also as an overall confidence boost), Blaney and his team won’t have to worry about missing at least the Round of 16 if he continues with consistency. of the. Once the season gets later into the playoffs, the pressure to win will mount, but to start the playoffs, Blaney will advance regardless of whether he wins or not.

Lucas Glover: Blaney definitely needs to win a postseason run, more to advance comfortably than to legitimize his playoff spot. As for consistency, Blaney has been one of the best this season. Plus, he wouldn’t be the first to go winless in the regular season and postseason. Remember Tony Stewart in 2011? Before the season started, my predictions included Blaney in Championship 4. I’m staying true to that. The Round of 12 is shaping up well for Blaney, with Texas Motor Speedway the main target. So does the Round of 8, where Blaney has run well at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Martinsville Speedway.

Stephen Stumpf: That Blaney is the only driver without a playoff win doesn’t matter; what does matter, though, is that the No. 12 has struggled to find consistent speed for months. In the first seven races, Blaney led 334 laps; he has led a combined 83 laps in the 19 races since then. Plus, Blaney will have one of the worst tracks of his at Darlington Raceway as a playoff opener. However, after Darlington, Blaney will have tracks where he has historically excelled at Kansas Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway. The season is reset for everyone, and if Blaney can survive Darlington with a top-20 finish and get out of the first round, he has a good chance of making it to the Round of 8.

How can NASCAR change the Next Gen car to alleviate any safety issues?

stump: The unfortunate reality is that the changes to the Next Gen car won’t come fast enough. It took years to develop the car, and it will take time and testing for changes to the car to be worked out. Using the Gen 6 cars until they realized the problems with the Next Gen car would have been a viable option, but unfortunately, most teams have already sold last year’s cars and teams.

Damcott: After Daytona International Speedway dealt drivers like Denny Hamlin, Bubba Wallace and Daniel Suarez probably the hardest hits they’ve taken in their careers (or at least in a long time), NASCAR has to take a look at the safety of the next generation. car, specifically in the head and neck region. Hamlin said his jaw felt like a boxer had hit it. Kurt Busch … well, we all know he’s been hit hard this season. Week after week, it seems that drivers are reporting that they have taken the hardest hit of their career and have headaches the day after a race in which they crashed. If NASCAR is going to focus on one specific part of the car to improve safety, it has to be the head and neck area, the area drivers complain about the most.

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glover: The main concern is energy absorption. Instead of the cars taking the energy from the impact, the energy is transferred to the driver’s body. Think of it this way: When a car hits a wall at 160 mph, the car stops but the driver’s body wants to keep going. That’s where the energy comes in. Christopher Bell said it goes primarily to the head area of ​​the body. Cars are more durable, but there is a risk that the driver will bear the brunt of the blow. NASCAR must not only focus on the external body, but new innovations must be made for a more secure head and neck restraint system, as well as for the seat.

Which Cup playoff driver is under the most pressure to perform at Darlington Raceway?

glover: William Byron’s name has to come out. Byron’s five top 10s are the second fewest among the playoff field and he is tied for second fewest top 5 finishes with four. Since his second victory of the season at Martinsville, he has posted just one top-10 finish. That’s 18 races with a top-10 finish for Hendrick Motorsports teams. Adding to the pressure is the fact that Byron has never advanced beyond the round of 16. Where was his best streak since the Martinsville win? At Darlington, where he was cleared for the win by Joey Logano.

stump: Kyle Larson. Even with two wins this season, he has been a championship hangover from a season in which he had 10 wins and led more than 2,500 laps. Additionally, Chase Elliott has established himself as Hendrick’s top driver in 2022 after playing second fiddle to Larson in 2021. The teams and drivers had their time adjusting to the Next Gen car in the first 26 races, but it’s all set. at stake for the final 10. Will we see last year’s Larson or this year’s Larson?

Damcott: If this was just a week earlier, the easy answer for me would be Alex Bowman, because he was hot at the start of the season and he’s pretty much cooled off. But after Daytona, the pressure is now 100% on Austin Dillon. Dillon got the Hail Mary win NASCAR hoped for when Daytona became the regular season finale, now he has to prove he belongs in the playoffs and advance from the round of 16. Otherwise it was a loss of spot. Someone like Martin Truex Jr. could have taken that spot and possibly made it to the round of 8, so Dillon needs to prove that he deserved a spot to compete for a championship.

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After the ARCA Menards Series race at the Milwaukee Mile, Taylor Gray said the track deserves whether it’s a NASCAR Xfinity Series race or a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Should NASCAR or the NTT IndyCar Series return to Milwaukee?

Damcott: If nothing else, Milwaukee provided great racing for the IndyCar Series. If any series were to go back there, it should be IndyCar. Although after the success and great racing at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park, the Truck Series could see a good turnout if added to the schedule. The common denominator is that Taylor Gray has raced in both IRP and Milwaukee, so if he thinks the Trucks should race there, he might think the racing could be as good as it was in IRP.

stump: I mentioned the Milwaukee Mile in a previous column and ideas for its return to the NASCAR schedule. With the Xfinity Series presumably competing at Road America next year, a Wisconsin doubleheader with Xfinity at Road America on Saturday afternoon and the Truck Series in Milwaukee on Saturday night would be a good way to build fan interest. during the weekend. A Cup Series race should also be considered for the future; it would add another unique oval to the schedule and at least ease the frustration of Wisconsinites who wanted Road America to stay on the Cup circuit.

glover: Both NASCAR and IndyCar should return to the track. We’ve seen tracks similar to Milwaukee that feature multiple ruts and provide some exciting racing. It also helps add more diversity to the schedule, and that will help the promotion and development of the track. It would also be interesting to see a doubleheader between NASCAR and IndyCar at the track.

Luken Glover arrived on the Frontstretch scene in 2020. He has been an avid NASCAR fan for most of his life, following in the footsteps of his grandfather who used to help former team owner Junie Donlavey in his garage. Glover covers news for the site and took over “The Underdog House” column in 2021. In addition to being a college student, his hobbies include volunteering at church, playing basketball and tennis, racing go-carts, and helping out at his high school. Alma mater

Stephen Stumpf joined Frontstretch in September 2021. He is a staff writer and a Friday news writer. Stephen also writes the weekly “4 Burning Questions” column and contributes to “Friday Faceoff” and “2-Headed Monster.” A native of Texas, Stephen began following NASCAR at age 9.

Follow @stephen_stumpf on Twitter.

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