How good will Shane van Gisbergen be next year?

1. Who is in danger of elimination this weekend?

With just one race remaining in the Round of 16, all eyes will be watching the bottom four drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series qualifying standings to see who will be eliminated after 500 laps at Bristol Motor Speedway.

We may see some major disruptions.

Looking at the standings now, three of these drivers aren’t too surprising. Based on his 16.9 finishing average alone, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had the best season of his career, and yes, that includes his time with Roush Fenway Racing when he won twice in 2017.

However, despite having six top-10 finishes in his first four Cup seasons at the Last Great Colosseum, Stenhouse hasn’t finished better than 20th on the track’s concrete since 2018. His claim may be to erase a 22-point deficit this weekend It’s difficult. to request.

Like Stenhouse, Michael McDowell is also having a career year complete with his second career win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. However, unlike Stenhouse, it took McDowell 21 attempts to finally get his only top-10 result in the Cup Series at Bristol, so the possibility of him getting 40 points this weekend doesn’t look great either.

Bubba Wallace was sitting pretty at Kansas Speedway last weekend after leading three laps and looking like one of the quicker cars on Sunday. However, a broken toe forced him to finish 32nd and 19 points below the cut line heading into what was arguably one of his worst runs to elimination.

In 12 Cup championships, the 23XI Racing driver has had just one top-10 result and led six of the 3,404 total laps he completed there.

Finally, there’s the big shocker: Martin Truex Jr.

It doesn’t seem right to count this year’s regular season champion already. You know, the guy who was the top seed entered the playoffs with the most points just two weeks ago?

In fact, under normal circumstances, I probably wouldn’t.

However, this is it Bristol Night Race The conditions, unfortunately for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver, do not perform well on the short, half-mile track.

What’s worse is that everyone above him in the rankings is doing it.

In his 32 career Bristol Cup starts, Truex has only four times finished in the top 10 – and only two of those have come in the last 11 years.

Leading him in the standings by just seven points is 2014 Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick, who is only five points behind defending champion Joey Logano.

Harvick alone has three short track wins with 14 top-fives and 22 top-10s in 42 races. As for Logano, he has two wins, six top-five finishes and 10 top-10s in just 26 starts at Tennessee.

You don’t need a calculator to realize that there is a much clearer pattern to the success of duos on Truex.

The No. 19 team will likely need someone ahead of them in the bubble to have a bad Saturday night to have a chance of staying in the postseason chase this year. But luckily for him, we’re talking about Bristol, and we can guarantee there will be some chaos to shake things up a bit.

2. Are you truly Want to race a second Bristol berth?

Have you ever heard the phrase “less is more”?

It is a phrase that refers to the idea that a small amount of something special is actually better than a large amount of it.

On the list of items within the sport of NASCAR that should be limited, pinned somewhere between road courses and qualifying spots, sits Bristol Pavement Racing.

Before you grab your pitchforks and torches and sing about how much you despise Bristol dirt racing, just listen to this.

The Bristol Night Race has been a staple of NASCAR since 1978, and almost every year leaves the sport with memories that define stock car racing. Some of them even bypassed NASCAR altogether. But how many daily races have done the same thing?

Before dirt racing, Bristol’s history was in the spring as its grandstands turned into a ghost town before the pavement replacement race date. That wasn’t a good look in the first place.

But existence Just The Bristol Night Race each fall gives NASCAR fans something more to look forward to each year when it comes to the half-mile circuit. Without the spring event and its empty grandstands at the beginning of the year, it makes night racing a bit more exclusive.

think about it. In a way, it’s like the holiday season. It wouldn’t be something to look forward to if it happened more than once a year, would it?

3. How will Shane van Gisbergen perform in 2024?

After Shane van Gisbergen hinted he would leave Australian Supercars for the American car in 2024, he has arguably been the most exciting driver on this season’s ridiculous season ticket.

And as of Wednesday, we finally got an answer on where he’s going.

But this leaves a new question; How will he do in his part-time schedule with Trackhouse Racing?

Well, if the schedule consisted entirely of road courses, it would probably do well. After making just two Cup starts on road courses, the Kiwi won in its Chicago street course debut and finished tenth on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. For a first-timer, this is pretty amazing.

But team owner Justin Marks has other plans for Van Gisbergen.

“Next year will be about getting him acclimated to oval track racing,” Marks said in a team statement. “High-speed roads, 1.5-mile tracks, everything he’s never experienced before.”

In other words? Unlike in 2023, the three-time Supercars champion will be out of his comfort zone next season.

On top of his limited schedule across NASCAR’s top three series, Marks plans to get him into some late model races as well, which will be good for his short track racing game, as he will certainly need it for next year’s All-Star race. (which he qualified for by winning in Chicago) because it will likely be on a short track again, whether it’s North Wilkesboro Speedway or not.

In fact, his only oval race this year was on the short track in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series at Lucas Oil Park’s Indianapolis Motor Speedway. There, Van Gisbergen finished 19th, one lap down when driving for Niece Motorsports. That’s not bad, but he’s certainly not the obvious talent many might have expected.

It’s also unfair to measure how an entire season’s worth of races will go based on one finish, but then again, isn’t that what we all did after winning Chicago?

4. Are Zane Smith’s championship defense hopes fading?

Truck Series champion Zane Smith entered Thursday night’s event at Bristol with two wins to his name in the entire 2023 season. This comes after he won four titles in 2022 on his way to the championship. However, upon leaving the short track, Smith now finds himself 14 points out of Championship 4 with only Talladega Superspeedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway remaining on the schedule.

That’s a bit far from where he was one year ago when he was just three points behind Chandler Smith for the points lead.

Is it fair to say that the truck champion is in danger of not defending his title?

Well, first, there’s the Talladega – a track whose mere word sends shivers down the spine of the car’s owner, among whom might be Smith himself. In his four total starts in the NASCAR National Series on the giant 2.66-mile race track, the Californian has never finished inside the top 15. In fact, he has only finished in the top 30 once.

But here’s the good news. Talladega is known for being a wild event where anyone can win and no one is safe. Smith also had an ARCA Menards Series win at the top-level track through 2018, so success isn’t exactly unfamiliar to the Truck Series racer.

There’s also the fact that he has two straight wins at Talladega’s sister track, Daytona International Speedway.

Then, there’s Homestead. Unlike Talladega, the driver of the No. 38 Ford has only two starts at the 1.5-mile oval, one of which ends with a second-place finish. The other finished in 37th place – but at least that was the position in 2020, a full three years ago.

But of the two, even the 24-year-old agrees that Homestead will be the real test for his FRM team.

“Who knows (Talladega),” Smith said after the race at Bristol. “Obviously we won on the highways with FRM. Yeah, that’s anyone’s battle.

“I feel like the only real place that’s a real story is Homestead.”

But to get to Homestead, Zane Smith will need to survive the chaos of Talladega first.

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