The Round of 12 will kick off at Texas Motor Speedway (Spe.t 24), then feature races at Talladega Superspeedway (Oct. 1) and the Charlotte Road Course (Oct. 8).
You couldn’t pick three more different tracks to showcase the talents of the Cup Series playoff field; a “Cookie-cutter” 1.5-mile speedway, a 2.66-mile wildcard superspeedway, and a road course event.
Our collective picks at Team TRE have the following four drivers eliminated when the contenders get slashed to eight drivers, including two past champions.
MORE: Round of 12 predictions
In Ross Chastain’s lone playoff appearance last year, the Florida-native made it to Phoenix as a championship contender by way of the “Hail Melon” move at Martinsville.
Chastain’s aggressive driving can net results in the playoffs but consistency needs to be at the forefront.
Before the incident with Kyle Larson at Darlington, Chastain had it. He led the points and his only finishes outside of the top 15 at regular tracks was a 24th-place finish at Phoenix and a 23rd at Talladega.
At Phoenix, Hamlin took advantage of Chastain’s four tires as his own. Meanwhile Talladega saw a late-race incident while trying to push Noah Gragson to secure the lead.
He has one victory, but five stage wins, which is tied with Denny Hamlin for second — behind only Martin Truex Jr, who has six stage wins.
Chastain starts as the No. 8 seed, which is encouraging. Three top-10 finishes in the last 11 races, including on road courses and shorter tracks, isn’t.
The playoffs are tight so Chastain will need to pick up the pace — or pick up victories to ensure advancement to further rounds.
You can carry a team on your back, but for how long?
Reddick has shown raw speed, and took the victory earlier this year on the road course in Austin,
Wheel issues at Nashville and Michigan cost Reddick the chance at being a multi-winner entering the playoffs. 23XI has shown speed throughout the year, but speed alone will not be enough to advance.
It will take a team effort — little to no mistakes on pit road — to continue to Phoenix as a contender.
One of the best, if not the best of the era, will need to be more consistent in the playoffs than we have seen in the regular season.
Three wins with a new team in their first year is super impressive. Yet, this is Kyle Busch we’re talking about. He’s won at all the tracks in the opening round and at two of the tracks in the Round of 12, including Talladega this past April.
It’s been feast or famine for the No. 8 team. When they’re strong, they are a threat, but we’ve also seen Busch be non-factors at tracks that have historically been good to him.
For Keselowski, experience will certainly help him advance out of at least the Round of 16. Not having a win — compared to his RFK counterpart Chris Buescher with 3 victories — could be the difference in advancing because of having fewer playoff points.
The 2012 champion made remarks a few weeks back that it is a humbling experience to miss the playoffs, because the sport continues with or without you. He’s yet to find Victory Lane as an owner-driver, but has finished second twice in the No. 6 ride.
You could make the argument of all four of these drivers advancing at least to the Round of 12, but we’ll have to see how the first three races play out.
You can even say all four of the drivers, because of their veteran experience, could advance further. But if we’re going off what the first 26 races have shown us — which is a pretty decent sample size — we may see these four no longer in championship contention by the time we get to the Las Vegas race.
I am a co-owner and reporter for TheRacingExperts.com.