Track Talk: Gander Outdoors 400 at Dover

Alex Bowman hopes for a win in today's Gander Outdoors 400 at Dover.

Alex Bowman hopes for a win in today’s Gander Outdoors 400 at Dover.

Each weekend, our panel provides their thoughts on the latest stories in NASCAR while predicting the winner of the Gander Outdoors 400 at Dover International Speedway, the upcoming Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race!

Today, our panelists Adam LucasAshley Hobbs, Ashley HullChristina BowmanCody ShoppeJose Acero JrKatie Copple, and Matt Sisoler consider which NASCAR Playoffs racer feel most fortunate after the ROVAL, the promotions of Ryan Preece and Daniel Hemric, and the drivers most likely to be eliminated after the Round of 12.

Question 1
"Gee Kyle, can you repeat that last lap miracle at the ROVAL one more time?"

“Gee Kyle, can you repeat that last lap miracle at the ROVAL one more time?”

Sunday’s Bank of America ROVAL 400 greatly impacted the NASCAR Playoffs field.  Which drivers do you suppose are counting their blessings? And which ones are looking to build off their postseason run for a strong finish in 2018?

Acero :  All of the 12 that made it through are giving thanks to the racing gods for surviving the “ROVAL.” I don’t know if this or Dega is the wild card race of the Playoffs!

Bowman : Um, every single driver who made it through that round of eliminations should be counting their blessings! That was a wild card of a race and just to make it through was a triumph in and of itself. You had to have talent and a whole lot of luck to boot! I think we are all reeling from that!

Conley :  Without question it was Larson. He made it by sheer determination of his team, and the fact NASCAR gives 3 laps and not two when it comes to making minimum speed. Heck of a job by that 42 crew.

Copple :  Any driver who is still in the playoffs need to count their blessings! That ROVAL race was insane! And I’m. It even talking about the last lap. Larson can thank Johnson for wrecking that final lap, or he would be out. Having a three-way tie for the last spot, that doesn’t happen often. This ROVAL race was perfectly placed on the schedule. More please!

Hobbs :  If you don’t mention Kyle Larson, you are crazy! The kid was in, then out, and miraculously, he made it in on a tie-break when all said and done. He had everything going right for him during the day, until the end, and he somehow survived. He should take that and use it to be even better the next round!

Hull :  I think every driver that made it through this crazy race!!! Ryan Blaney is definitely counting his blessings because he won and advanced! After having a crappy day, Aric Almirola is counting his blessings as well! We will see what happens this weekend!

Lucas :  Clint Bowyer is counting, Aric Almirola is counting, Alex Bowman is counting, and shoot, so is Ryan Blaney! All four drivers can definitely look up and be thankful that their luck was present this past Sunday afternoon. Honestly, almost all four of these drivers are making great arguments for advancing to the round of eight. Blaney has momentum from winning, along with the other Penske cars finally catching fire over the past month.

Shoppe : Clint Bowyer, Alex Bowman, Aric Almirola, and Kyle Larson all were sweating it out at one point or another last week and call can be thankful they advanced! Among those who just got by, Kyle Larson has to be the most relieved to make it as he has to be the most poised to make a serious title run. As for Alex Bowman, he has to just be happy to make it past round one when you consider where they have run this year and they came into the playoffs without a playoff point.

Sisoler : Kyle Larson has got to be thanking every single thing you can thank for Jimmie Johnson and Daniel Hemric’s aggressiveness in the final corners! Had Johnson not lost control his car and finished eighth due to the spin and crash with MTJ, or Hemric turn Jeffrey Earnhardt into the wall, his frantic charge over the last lap would have been for naught.

That charge by Larson with a horribly damaged race car reminds me of the 1997 Daytona 500 where Dale Earnhardt flipped his car, got back into it, had it repaired and finished the race better than if he had just thrown in the towel. Last year Larson was out of the playoffs due to bad luck, now he’s in due to insanely good luck and some grit. This could be his year.

And obviously, you can’t count out Aric Almirola, cause he was involved in that absolutely wreck-tastic first corner late in the race, and came away without some damage, but none severe enough to take him out of the running, which enabled him to make a run good enough to get himself into the next round.

Question 2
Will Ryan Preece and Daniel Hemric maximize on their promotions for 2019?

Will Ryan Preece and Daniel Hemric maximize on their promotions for 2019?

Ryan Preece and Daniel Hemric will graduate to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2019.  As the field continually gets younger, what do both drivers offer to their respective teams as rookies?

Acero :  All I can say is, too soon! Prove yourselves in XFINITY and then you can consider making the move from JV to varsity!

Conley :  As JTG Daugherty Racing Competition Director Ernie Cope said last week, “Ryan was hard to get ahold of because he was always out in the shop. He is hands on and knows what the car needs, and how to change it. Preece is the definition of a true racer. Ryan wants to win and has the ability.”

As for Hemric, all it takes is Richard Childress saying he sees so much of Dale Earnhardt in this kid. His work ethic is second to known and he’s done it right.

Neither of these two have bought their way to the top series. They raced their way up and worked harder than the next guy.

Copple :  I am probably going to be the odd man out here but why on Earth do we keep moving these young drivers up to Cup before they are truly ready? Are they talented? Yes. Do they deserve a Cup ride? Yes. Do they deserve a Cup ride now? No. Teams are bringing up the young drivers so early when they still need a year or more in the junior leagues to really cut their teeth. And, bringing up the young guys is forcing out the veterans before they are ready to hang up the fire suit.

This sport is losing so many of their talented veterans way too soon, and in part, losing fans. These young drivers are talented, but are we really doing them any good by bringing them up to the big leagues before they are truly ready? Look at what it’s doing for the big teams. Hendrick Motorsports is a prime example here.

They are failing this season, and a good indicator of that is the average age of their drivers has drastically changed in the last three years. They went from Johnson, Gordon, Earnhardt and Kahne to Johnson and three drivers with less than five years combined full time Cup experience and they are struggling this year.

The seven-time Cup champ barely made the playoffs. These teams need to not rush bringing up the young drivers. Give them time to really gain experience, put them in Cup cars a few times a year to get experience, then bring them up in a few more seasons. Don’t force the vets out just for a younger face. The young guys do deserve Cup rides, but so do the vets.

Hobbs :  This is a chance for some young, true talent to show what they are made of. Both men have done well in the XFINITY Series, and now it is time to show what they are truly made of. Both teams are coming up to teams that are not necessarily tier 1 teams, and this is their chance to try and show there is room for improvement. Sometimes fresh blood can turn things around.

Hull :  I personally they should have waited another year to move up. But, that’s just the sign of the times. The field is starting to get younger and younger. They are both talented young men who will be making an impact someday!

Lucas :  I’ll keep this short, and probably will tussle some feathers at it. Finally, two teams that are willing to put talent over deep pockets. Also, I really hope that RCR changes numbers too. The No. 31 team could use a fresh look, and as Dale Jr referenced it during the Roval weekend, he liked seeing the No. 8 (the third RCR entry that Hemric ran) back on track. Another note off of that, Hemric is a K-Town (Kannapolis, NC) boy. Heck, that’s two major endorsements for bringing the No. 8 back!

Shoppe :  Very refreshing to see competitive Cup teams giving chances to talented young guns! I have been following Ryan Preece in the Modified tour for years! It is not too often a modified driver makes it to Cup these days! For Daniel Hemric, he will be a great addition to RCR in Cup as he is one of the most clean and consistent young drivers out there!

Sisoler :  I agree with Mr. Lucas, and no not the one that created Star Wars. Finally there are a pair of teams willing to take a shot with talent over money. Hemric and Preece have shown talent this entire season over in the Xfinity Series, and should be able to make a good go of it for RCR and JTG Daughetry next year. Not saying they’ll win, but I’m not saying they won’t have chances to steal a race.

The competition gets tougher in this latest round that takes us from Dover to Kansas! In between these stops is Talladega, the true wild card of the Playoffs. While eight will advance, let’s predict those who may not get their ticket to Martinsville.
Eliminated Drivers After Round of 12
Forever alone?

Forever alone?

Acero :  Aric Almirola, Alex Bowman, Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch

Bowman :  Aric Almirola, Alex Bowman, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Larson

Conley :  Clint Bowyer, Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch and Kurt Busch

Copple :  Kyle Larson, Aric Almirola, Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott

Hobbs :  Alex Bowman, Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer

Hull : Aric Almirola, Alex Bowman, Clint Bowyer, and Kyle Larson

Lucas :  Aric Almirola, Alex Bowman, Kyle Larson, Clint Bowyer

Shoppe :  Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott, Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola

Sisoler :  Tough choices here. But I’d have say Alex Bowman, Aric Almirola, Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney.

Tiongson :  Joey Logano, Aric Almirola, Alex Bowman, and Chase Elliott

The Round of 12 kicks off today at Dover.  Before the engines ignite, let’s make our picks for the Gander Outdoors 400!
It seems to be a Jimmie versus everyone else day at Dover.

It seems to be a Jimmie versus everyone else day at Dover.

Tiongson :  It’s a big gamble considering that this driver was eliminated from the Playoffs last Sunday. However, Jimmie Johnson looks like a man seeking redemption and Dover’s his playground. Going for the 48 and hoping this gambit pays off.

Hull :  Jimmie Johnson comes back with his redemption!

Acero :  Jimmie Johnson!

Copple :  Johnson

Sisoler :  I think I’ve gotta stick with my pick from last weekend. Jimmie Johnson’s been getting faster and faster as Hendrick has gotten the hang of the Camaro, plus, he’s gonna be hungry after being so close to victory at the ROVAL. His last win was Dover last June, and the winless streak ends at one of his best tracks this weekend. Johnson tames ‘The Monster Mile” yet again!

Bowman :  Martin Truex Jr.

Conley :  Kyle Larson.

Hobbs :  Rowdy.

Lucas :  Swing for the fences! Daniel Suarez for the win!

Shoppe :  Kevin Harvick.

TPF Stats :  Chase Elliott.

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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