Track Talk: South Point 400 at Las Vegas

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Each weekend, our panel provides their thoughts on the latest stories in NASCAR while predicting the winner of the South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the upcoming Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race!

Presently, our panelists Adam LucasAshley Hobbs, Christina BowmanCody ShoppeJose Acero Jr, and Katie Copple reflect on Silly Season, what to expect in today’s South Point 400, our predictions for the NASCAR Playoffs, and much more!

Question 1
Matt DiBenedetto prepares to make a leap of faith move for 2019. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

Matt DiBenedetto prepares to make a leap of faith move for 2019. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

Silly season seems to be in full swing with Matt DiBenedetto leaving the No. 32 team and Jamie McMurray not having a full-time ride in 2019.  In this case, will DiBenedetto and McMurray find quality opportunities for 2019?

Acero :  I don’t see them landing a “top” ride next season, unless someone takes one for the team and take over Kahne’s ride.

Bowman :  It’s going to be hard for either of them to find a full-time opportunity, let alone a quality one. They could hope to fill the shoes of someone like Kasey Kahne, who is retiring. Without openings, I don’t know that I see much happening for either of these gentleman. I do hope though, to see both of them racing full time in 2019.

Copple :  I don’t know if I see either of them having a full time ride next season. Finding a seat is hard to come by as it is… throw in lack of sponsorship and funding and it’s harder. NASCAR folks. And not in a good way.

Hobbs :  DiBurrito, I mean DiBenedetto has never had a quality ride so it will be hard for quality teams to look at him as someone can fill a quality seat. With the 1 opening up, and the 41 open as well, there are two quality seats out there, but the likes of Kurt Busch going to the 1 leaves just the 41.

Lucas :  It’s a very volatile driver market for 2019, and honestly, I think those two drivers have better of had discussions within the previous two months for a shot at a ride next season. If I were Diburrito, I would hope I could get a full time gig in top Xfinity equipment for 2019. That’s no slam against him, I just really want to see him compete for top 5’s and 10’s on a regular basis.

Shoppe :  I admire the bold move Matt DiBenedetto has made after seeing what can happen when a driver for a low budget team gets a shot in good equipment i.e Ross Chastain. With the only arguably available rides possibly taken such as the 6, 95, 41, 1, and 95, DiBenedetto should look to find a winning car in the Xfinity Series. The talent we all know he has matched with a top-level Xfinity car could lead to DiBurrito contending for an Xfinity title and rejuvenating his career in the Cup series!

Question 2
With the playoffs kicking off today, will we see who's going to be real at Las Vegas, Dr. Phil style?

With the playoffs kicking off today, will we see who’s going to be real at Las Vegas, Dr. Phil style?

The playoffs kick off this weekend with Sunday’s South Point 400, the first time that Las Vegas will host a second Cup race date. All things considered, what can we expect from “The Sin City? ” Given these points, might we see a reprise from the third race of this year?

Acero : Ah yes, NASCAR in my backyard and expect to see the unexpected. Stock cars have never ran in this Vegas weather this time of year and it will take the perfect set up to win this one! Surprise winner to spoil the party for the “chasers.”

Bowman :  You’re going to see those 16 racers in the Chase fighting hard to secure a win and move on to the next round. No one wants to be the guy on the outside looking in with one race left to go in the round of 16.

Copple :  I’m at a toss up for what we will see. Will it change from the same handful of dominant drivers we saw during the regular season? It will we see something new? I’m leaning towards the latter. I think we will see some good racing the next 10 races, but let’s be real here… it’ll be the same 4 or 5 drivers each week.

Hobbs :  It will be hot and slick; sounds like a race fit for Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott. We will look for one of the guys not named Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, or Martin Truex Jr., to make as much noise as possible and earn their place in the next round of the Playoffs.

Lucas :  With temperatures to be in the low 100’s all race weekend, I think we might be in for a semi-reprise of Chicagoland from July. I know, I know, dry heat is nothing compared to heat with humidity (trust me, I live in South Carolina). But after riding around for 400 miles in that heat, plus the heat emanating from inside the car, expect drivers to be pushed beyond the human limits and into the danger zone!

Shoppe :  Now it’s time to get serious! This is the first race of the playoffs, no more trying things out, no more experiments with setups. Whoever races for the win this weekend is the real deal and will contend for the title. The “Big three” have not won in the last three consecutive races. That is the longest streak this season! If they are really still the three best we will see it this weekend!

To sum up, that’s two solid laps around the Sin City’s premier racetrack!  Accordingly, we’ll be gambling for a win in a moment.  However, let’s review our results from the regular season finale at Indianapolis!
Yours truly believed in race winner Brad Keselowski.

Yours truly believed in race winner Brad Keselowski.

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With the playoffs kicking off soon, it’s that time of the season on TPF!  Like most sports, there’s the case of those who’ve made it to the postseason, but run out of gas.  First of all, let’s look at those who may not make it after the Round of 16.
Marshmello may not be enough to save Austin Dillon's playoff hopes.

Marshmello may not be enough to save Austin Dillon’s playoff hopes.

Eliminated Racers After Round of 16

Acero :  Aric Almirola, Austin Dillon, Erik Jones, Denny Hamlin

Bowman :  Jimmie Johnson, Aric Almirola, Alex Bowman, Austin Dillon

Copple :  Jimmie Johnson (as much as it pains me), Aric Almirola, Erik Jones, Austin Dillon

Hobbs :  Austin Dillon, Alex Bowman, Aric Almirola, Erik Jones

Lucas :  Austin Dillon, Alex Bowman, Aric Almirola, Denny Hamlin

Shoppe :  Austin Dillon, Alex Bowman, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson

Tiongson : Austin Dillon, Alex Bowman, Denny Hamlin, Erik Jones

Earlier in the year, we predicted our overall season championship picks!  Similarly, see if those picks differ from Daytona and find out which of us are sticking with our original choices!
Smile - you're on candid championship picks camera!

Smile – you’re on candid championship picks camera!

Championship Picks

Tiongson :  Kyle Larson

Bowman :  Kyle Busch

Acero :  Kevin Harvick

Copple :  Kevin Harvick

Hobbs :  Kevin Harvick

Lucas :  Kevin Harvick

Shoppe : Kyle Busch

Finally, it’s time to make it happen in Las Vegas!  Let’s reveal our picks to win today’s inaugural running of the South Point 400!
Can one of these six start the playoffs on a winning note?

Can one of these six start the playoffs on a winning note?

Tiongson :  Sure, Kevin Harvick seems to be the odds on favorite for Las Vegas.  However, I’m feeling like you can’t go wrong with Kyle Larson to start things off.

Hobbs :  He’s been relatively quiet this season, but he is good when it comes to Vegas. I am looking at you, Joey Logano, to start things off with a bang!

Acero :  Logano wins at Vegas!

Bowman :  Kyle Busch.

Copple :  Kyle Busch. Home track!

Lucas :  Even though I picked him to be eliminated after the first round, I hope he proves me wrong. Denny Hamlin delivers on a gamble to win big in Las Vegas!

Shoppe :  Ryan Blaney!

TPF Stats :  The stats look towards Kevin Harvick to start off the Playoffs with a win, thus, amassing more precious Playoff points.

That wraps this week’s preview, race fans!  Thanks for joining us for another edition of Track Talk!

We’re ready for some racing. How about you? What do you think are the biggest storylines heading into Sunday’s race and who is your favorite to win?  Tweet us now @ThePodiumFinish and tell us now!

Thanks as always to the TPF team for their amazing efforts this week!  We hope to see you at the races.

The opinions and thoughts expressed in Track Talk are solely of the authors. They do not reflect any organizations affiliated with the participants and author outside of TPF. This weekly feature is strictly for entertainment purposes and are not indicative of TPF, the organization, and its staff.

Rob Tiongson

30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught my eye. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by me or by one of my talented columnists who absolutely have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. I enjoy editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography.

Graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. Proud to be from Massachusetts, just as happy to be a Texan.

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