The end of the Hollywood Casino 400 means the end of the line for four more Cup Series championship contenders, and we say goodbye to each of them.
And then there were eight. Following the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway, the field for the NASCAR Championship was trimmed by four, and despite some interesting scenarios that popped up mid-race, there were really no big surprises once Chase Elliott took the checkered flag.
Only Stewart-Haas Racing and four other cars remain. Seriously, on pure math alone, SHR has a 50 percent chance of claiming a title at Homestead, at least for now.
For the drivers who won’t be moving on and will be driving only for pride and trophies at Martinsville, we want to give them a proper send-off. So just as we did at the end of the Round of 16, here’s our goodbye, or maybe more precisely ’til we meet again at Daytona.
High point of 2018: Though an argument could be made that just getting called up to Team Penske was the best thing that happened to Blaney this year, it’s hard not to pick his improbable win at the Charlotte ROVAL. Running third isn’t a bad place to be just in case the two cars in front of you take each other out, and that’s exactly what happened to send the 12 to Victory Lane. Blaney will always be able to say he won the first race ever on Charlotte’s unique road course.
Low point of 2018: Blaney’s first trip to Charlotte wasn’t so great, and his 36th-place finish in the spring came just one race (not counting the All-Star Race) after a 37th at Kansas. He still has occasional stretches of inconsistency, he and his team need to get ironed out so he can take the next step toward competing for a Cup Series championship.
Better luck next year? We think so. Blaney showed more speed than his lone win would indicate, leading laps in a fair number of races. Sometimes he got himself into trouble — he was probably harder than he needed to be after brushing the wall at Kansas — but other bad finishes were not of his making. Team Penske should still be strong for the foreseeable future and Blaney doesn’t even turn 25 until December. We should be seeing him running strong for years to come.