Podium Preview: South Point 400

No doubt, Joey Logano must like his chances with tonight's South Point 400. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

No doubt, Joey Logano must like his chances with tonight’s South Point 400. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

Not only is tonight’s South Point 400 at Las Vegas a critical point for the NASCAR Playoffs, but it’s perhaps the true test of our title hopefuls. If the first 1.5-mile race of the Playoffs provides glimpses of what was seen in the regular season, then it’s the Team Penske and Gibbs show.

However, there’s plenty of stories to watch in Round 30 of the NASCAR Cup Series season. All things considered, much is at stake for those fighting for the title and those just wanting to win a race in 2020.

Each race weekend, The Podium Finish’s panelists, consisting of columnists, photographers, and fans, preview the racing action. This weekend, Ashley HobbsCody ShoppeKobe LambethLuis Torres, Matteo MarcheschiMichelle RaynorStephen Conley, Terra Jones, and yours truly ponder about Michael Jordan’s new NASCAR team and those sweating it out in the Round of 12.

Podium Preview: South Point 400 at Las Vegas
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Question 1
Ladies and gentlemen, start your guesses!

Ladies and gentlemen, start your guesses!

The official news of Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan forming a NASCAR Cup team, and Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. being their driver, came in the late hours of 21 September 2020. As of now, the team name and number have not been revealed. What would you name this team, and what number would you put Wallace in? (Editor’s note – these aren’t actual names for the new team, but just fun guesses.)

Sisoler :  I would call it Jordan-Hamlin Motorsports (Michael is the majority partner) and, I mean, come on, you have to use 23.

Jones :  I have no doubt the Number 23 will be at the top of the request list. As far as a name? JorDen Motorsports? JORdan-DENny? Hopefully, they come up with something better than my idea! 

Hobbs :  Firstly, I am glad this story is now official! NASCAR in 2021 just got quite interesting. That said, with Michael Jordan being the primary owner, I would anticipate him asking for the No. 23; it only makes sense.

As for a team name, I think Space Jam Racing and Mighty Michael Motorsports have nice rings. Maybe even throw HJ Racing into the mix to give Hamlin into the name mix. But how could we forget Monstars Racing (or Motorsports)?! I do hope for a fun name 🤞

Marcheschi :  I’d have to imagine their number will be 23, because… what else would it be? I’d have more fun with the name though. Something pertaining to the Charlotte Hornets, maybe, since Jordan also owns that team? Hornet Motorsports? Or maybe something more generally basketball-related: Three-Point Motorsports? Free Throw Racing? The possibilities are endless!

Lambeth :  First and foremost, it is quite an honor to have the GOAT of basketball, Michael Jordan, joining NASCAR as a team owner alongside his buddy Denny Hamlin. MJ is well-known all over the world and his influence will bring more eyes to the sport. This is a win-win situation for NASCAR. Given the legacy of MJ’s famous basketball number, I think it is inevitable that Bubba Wallace will be driving the No. 23 next season. As for the team name, I really like Air Jordan Motorsports.

Raynor : I think the car number will be 23. It just makes sense and it is available. As far as a name maybe Jumpman Racing or Jumpman Hamlin Racing. It will be exciting for sure. 

Luttrell :  First of all, this is such exciting news! I can’t wait to see how this team grows and performs during the 2021 season. As far as a name…I know the obvious choice is something like JordanHamlin Racing…but I am feeling something like Denny Michael Motorsports, or Hamlin Jordan Motorsports. As far as the number…how can you not choose 23?

Question 2
Could this be a do or die time for Kyle Busch's NASCAR Playoffs hopes?

Could this be a do or die time for Kyle Busch’s NASCAR Playoffs hopes?

With the playoffs down to 12, it’s crunch time for many drivers. Who will have to dig the hardest to escape elimination this round, with Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the Charlotte Roval, and Talladega Superspeedway on the docket?

Tiongson :  Honestly, I think Kyle Busch has to dig super hard to advance past this round. His confidence isn’t exactly high at this point. However, if Rowdy is going to make noise, it has to be in the Round of 12. He’s not been strong and he’s made mistakes that’s atypical of him. Even with the show-up and race format, at this point, the 18 team can’t piggyback on this excuse anymore. If they struggle in this leg of the Playoffs, I imagine it’ll be a rather early exit for our defending Cup champion.

Shoppe :  Stewart-Haas Racing’s two winless drivers, Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola will have to raise their games this round for sure! Without an abundance of stage points and they both start off below the cutline. Along with them, Kurt Busch has to be a bit worried. The older Busch brother has never had strength at his home track and with Dega and the roval following this race, the odds are stacked against the very first playoff champ. 

Conley :  Even though he has a comfortable points cushion, Denny Hamlin did not have a solid start to the playoffs. With a 13th, 12th, and 21st place results in Round 1, he is in need of a strong start at Las Vegas, because another 20th or worse placed finish at Las Vegas and he’ll need rapid release tums for days heading into Talladega and the Roval.

That 43 point edge over 8th and only 47 back to 12th, he could be facing a troubled year again. Great news on the ownership front, but that could have been a distraction that could cost him another championship. 

Torres :  No question it’s Clint Bowyer. He didn’t set the greatest tone whatsoever in the Round of 16 and those three tracks are question marks as to whether or not he’s going to amount to anything this season. Not only that, his career really depends on it because there’s still some folks feeling it’s Chase Briscoe’s ride to win. Bowyer may have done enough to make it in this round, but he’ll really need to impress in this round. Otherwise, I don’t see how he’ll keep the No. 14 Ford in 2021. 

When the Playoffs intensify, Team TPF knows about coming through just fine! Next, here’s a review of Round 29 at Bristol with our race and points reports!
Hobbs and Marcheschi thank Chase Elliott for his efforts.

Hobbs and Marcheschi thank Chase Elliott for his efforts.

In the meantime, does anyone have anything for the machine?

In the meantime, does anyone have anything for the machine?

Clint Bowyer's probably staring us down right now. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Clint Bowyer’s probably staring us down right now. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

By all means, this next segment is a dubious one for those in the Playoffs. Here’s our prediction for the Round of 12 Eliminated Drivers.

Conley :  Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Alex Bowman, and Denny Hamlin

Hobbs :   Alex Bowman, Austin Dillon, Kurt Busch, and Kyle Busch

Jones :  Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, Alex Bowman, and Austin Dillon 

Lambeth :  Austin Dillon, Clint Bowyer, Alex Bowman, and Kurt Busch

Luttrell :  Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch, and Austin Dillon

Marcheschi :  Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola, Alex Bowman, and Austin Dillon

Raynor : Clint Bowyer, Austin Dillon, Kurt Busch, and Aric Almirola 

Shoppe :  Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch, and Austin Dillon 

Tiongson :  Austin Dillon, Alex Bowman, Kyle Busch, and Clint Bowyer

Torres :  Clint Bowyer, Alex Bowman, Kurt Busch, and Austin Dillon

TPF Stats :  Austin Dillon, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, and Kyle Busch

Meanwhile, Ashley Hobbs decides we’ve all got to work on crunching numbers for tonight South Point 400.
First, here's how your favorite team fares in the South Point 400.

First, here’s how your favorite team fares in the South Point 400.

It pays to drive a Ford in Las Vegas.

It pays to drive a Ford in Las Vegas.

In the South Point 400's short history since 2018, the winner's average starting spot is 18.5, led an average of 53.5 laps, and hasn't started within the top-five or top-10.

In the South Point 400’s short history since 2018, the winner’s average starting spot is 18.5, led an average of 53.5 laps, and hasn’t started within the top-five or top-10.

Best Cup champ in the South Point 400 since 2018, MTJ.

Best Cup champ in the South Point 400 since 2018, MTJ.

Now, here's your trends in the South Point 400 since 2018.

Now, here’s your trends in the South Point 400 since 2018.

Goodness, the machine chose somebody else.

Goodness, the machine chose somebody else.

Last but not least, here’s our picks for tonight’s South Point 400 at Las Vegas!
Ultimately, the TPF team makes its South Point 400 picks!

Ultimately, the TPF team makes its South Point 400 picks!

Tiongson :  I might as well make some risky gambles even if that forces me into a more aggressive race pick later in the Playoffs. Tonight, I will put my hopes on Kevin Harvick with winning the South Point 400 at Las Vegas!

Raynor :  He’s good at this track.

Torres :  If there’s going to be a race where carrying momentum will lead to a crucial win, Aric Almirola is going to be the guy this Sunday. As the saying goes, continuity is key and a win at Las Vegas will do him many wonders that he is the dark horse.

Shoppe :  If KB does break through in his winless year, his home track is the best place to do it. While it might have been just a one-off solid run at Bristol, Kyle Busch might be riding a wave of momentum at the right time!

Marcheschi :  Joey Logano has been very strong at Las Vegas, scoring two wins and nine top-10 finishes in 14 starts. Those two victories have come in the last three races at the Nevada track. He’s also been strong recently, scoring top ten finishes in eight out of the last ten races. Logano tends to show up strong in the playoffs. So while it hasn’t been a career year for him, there should be no doubt that Team Penske will show up when it matters.

Hobbs :  For some reason, this round seems quite difficult to figure out who (outside of the usual two) can make noise. Since LVMS has hosted two Playoff races, there is not much to go off of. Joey Logano has a decent average finish at this track the past two Playoff years, is dependable overall at LVMS, and has been solid on Intermediate tracks this season.

Jones :  He won there in the spring. And while he might be able to point his way to the next round, a win would secure that. Plan on seeing the 22 in Victory Lane Sunday night.

Lambeth :  While Joey Logano has not won a race since March, the No. 22 team continues to improve each week. Look for him to break out the broom and complete the Las Vegas sweep!

Sisoler :  I wanted to go with Joey Logano but I already picked him, however, luckily Bad Brad is right up there with Logano in terms of runs recently at Las Vegas. Look for Car No. 2 to take the checkered flag come this weekend!

Conley :  With the first mile and a half since late July and Team Penske’s strength, I look for Logano in Victory Lane at Las Vegas tonight.

TPF Stats : Las Vegas Motor Speedway has only offered up a Playoff race twice, and the first race was won by Brad Keselowski. While Keselowski had an OK first round, he will need to step it up this round, and that starts this weekend out West.

Race fans, thanks for joining us for our preview of the South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway!

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

Thanks as always to the TPF team for their amazing efforts this week!  Let’s stay connected as we focus on getting back together on the track soon!  Please stay safe, wear a mask, and wash your hands often!

The opinions and thoughts expressed in Podium Preview 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. Ultimately, they 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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