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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup

OBSERVATIONS: South Point 400

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If you didn’t know the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs were starting, you certainly do after the chaos that ensured during the South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

After all the talk about the big three throughout the year, Brad Keselowski is making it all about the No. 2 as he scored his third straight victory in a row, allowing him to lock into the Round of 12. Although the wins may surprise, the fact they came after a stretch of seven races that included five finishes outside of the top-15 make the current streak even more shocking.

However, Team Penske has been in the thick of things all year long, just missing out in victories throughout the process. Cue the six top-fives for Keselowski before this recent string, along with success by Joey Logano and consistency from Ryan Blaney. With all three cars running 1-2-3 at one point, the tide may be shifting in the Captain’s favor.

RELATED:  Mitchell Breuer spoke with each of the Penske trio prior to the playoffs for their thoughts

Behind the pace shown by Team Penske was mayhem, though, as 11 of the 16 playoff drivers encountered trouble at one point or another throughout the event. Some were able to rebound – Kyle Larson‘s runner-up despite early contact with the wall, Blaney’s fifth despite his contact with the wall, and Kyle Busch‘s late drive through the field to finish seventh after going for a slide through the grass. However, there are now six competitors finding themselves in a bit of a hole after placing outside of the top-20.

The key for those drivers is the bonus points accumulated during the season, which Kevin Harvick should be smiling rather than saying that he’s isn’t happy about anything right now post-race. Despite finishing 39th after blowing a tire, he currently ranks fourth on the grid, 38 points above the cut-off line. That’s a much better spot to be in with a short track (Richmond Raceway) the unknowns of the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval looming, as he could be Denny Hamlin right now sitting in the basement, 20 points behind the cut-off.

If you eliminated the chaos that ensued, the event was actually pretty solid with side-by-side battles throughout the race as drivers were able to run three different grooves to find speed. Now let’s see if we can keep this action going in the weeks to come.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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Ashley McCubbin

Currently the Executive Editor for Popular Speed, Ashley McCubbin also runs Short Track Musings, while handling media relations for OSCAAR. Currently living in Bradford, Ontario, she spends her weekend at the local short tracks in the area taking photos.