The subplots are fascinating for each of NASCAR’s final 8 at end of Eliminator Round

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There’s so many potential storylines heading into this weekend’s Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500, as the final eight drivers are reduced to the four who will compete for the title.

Yesterday, courtesy of NASCAR’s PR and stats teams, we saw the breakdown of stats heading into the race.

But today, we examine what it might mean for each of the remaining eight to advance through to the final four – and what it would say about their seasons if they do or don’t advance.

Joey Logano

  • Has a 13-point cushion over fifth place, but can’t afford to be cautious.
  • Came up short of a win in February here after great qualifying.
  • Basically, needs to advance to put a period on a career season – it will feel as though it’s been a massive disappointment to have come so far but get knocked out now.

Denny Hamlin

  • Phoenix was the beginning of the end of his 2010 title run, despite eight wins. Will be motivated to avenge that race this weekend.
  • He’s highlighted the Brad Keselowski drama in this week’s teleconference. It’s got people talking about him as much as it has Brad.
  • He’s the best-positioned driver who can advance in without having a Chase win, which could irk some people… although not as much as a winless Ryan Newman or Matt Kenseth could.

Ryan Newman

  • “Mr. Consistency” is poised to play the ultimate spoiler in the first year of the new Chase. It would be ironic in so many ways if he advances through to Homestead.
  • Not in a great position to advance at Phoenix, though, with a career 18.2 average finish in 24 races. He needs to show he belongs with a quality top-five run this weekend.

Jeff Gordon

  • Must be ruing his last two weeks. Victory was within his grasp at both Martinsville and Texas, and yet the only way he can ensure a path to Homestead is with a win in Phoenix. Up only six points on eighth-placed Harvick, he has no room for error.
  • While still the sentimental favorite in his elusive “drive for five,” it’s hard to see Gordon as popular this week in the grand scheme of things as he was prior to Texas.
  • He and Phoenix have a history too. Two years ago, it was Gordon vs. Clint Bowyer post-race. It’s gonna be hard for Gordon to keep calm if he is eliminated Sunday afternoon, or gets involved in another wreck.

Matt Kenseth

  • As was the case for Hamlin in 2010 (another Gibbs car), Kenseth’s 2013 fall race at Phoenix was a disaster they must seek to overcome.
  • As is the case with Newman, Kenseth is almost playing with house money, knowing he can advance to Homestead on consistency rather than with wins. So he really has nothing to lose this weekend. 

Carl Edwards

  • Edwards is the “lame duck favorite” this weekend – the driver who is in the last year of his deal and still has a shot to win the title. It came true for Darian Grubb as Tony Stewart’s crew chief in 2011; it came true for Dodge as Keselowski’s manufacturer in 2012; it nearly came true for Kevin Harvick with Richard Childress Racing last year.
  • He’s won at Phoenix before, and could be well poised to advance with a top-five this weekend.

Brad Keselowski

  • The man of the moment this weekend. Love him or hate him, you can’t avoid watching him. Either way he goes this weekend, whether he advances or not, you know we’ll be talking about him.
  • As was the case with Logano, had a great car in February but came up short of the win. If he has the opportunity Sunday afternoon, you know he’ll go for a gap.
  • And like Logano, given his overall season, it would be a shame for him to advance if or when a driver with fewer wins does. But this is the way the format is, and there could be a lot of happy people if the 2 car isn’t running for a title in Homestead next weekend.

Kevin Harvick

  • Described by the Associated Press’ Jenna Fryer as “the quintessential Machiavellian character in NASCAR” under a subhead that read: “Harvick the Puppet Master,” ‘ol Harv could almost be viewed as more of a villain than Brad K. How so, you ask? At least at Texas, Keselowski was up front in going for a gap, owning it post-race, and then fighting in the scrum, while post-race Harvick pushed him from behind and played spectator. Harvick would be wise to listen to his own words and say, “You’ve gotta fight your own fight.”
  • He must be considered the favorite at Phoenix this weekend. Dominant beyond belief here in February and at the back end of the points table, A. Harvick has nothing to lose and B. It would be a surprise if he isn’t in the top two or three late in the race with a chance to win. If he has to use the bumper, expect fireworks post-race.
  • Like the Penske teammates, Harvick’s had too good a year to not be eligible for the title at Homestead. But he has work to do this weekend. We’ll see if he and the No. 4 team rise to the occasion.

IndyCar disappointed by delay of video game but aiming to launch at start of 2024

IndyCar video game 2024

An IndyCar executive said there is “absolutely” disappointment that its long-awaited video game recently was delayed beyond its target date, but the series remains optimistic about the new title.

“Well, I don’t know how quick it will be, but the whole situation is important to us,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said during a news conference Monday morning to announce IndyCar’s NTT title sponsorship. “Motorsport Games has spent a lot of money, a lot of effort to create an IndyCar title. What we’ve seen of that effort, which is not completely obvious, is very reassuring.

“I think it’s going to be outstanding. That’s our shared objective, that when it is released, it’s just widely accepted. A great credit both to IndyCar racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, something that our fans love.”

In June 2021, IndyCar announced a new partnership with Motorsport Games to create and distribute an IndyCar video game for the PC and Xbox and PlayStation consoles in 2023.

But during an earnings call last week, Motorsport Games said the IndyCar game had been delayed to 2024 to ensure high quality.

Somewhat compounding the delay is that IndyCar’s license for iRacing expired after the end of the 2022 season because of its exclusive agreement with Motorsport Games.

That’s resulted in significant changes for IndyCar on iRacing, which had provided a high-profile way for the series to stay visible during its 2020 shutdown from the pandemic. (Players still can race an unbranded car but don’t race on current IndyCar tracks, nor can they stream).

That’s helped ratchet up the attention on having a video game outlet for IndyCar.

“I wish we had an IndyCar title 10 years ago,” said Miles, who has been working with the organization since 2013. “We’ve been close, but we’ve had these I think speed bumps.”

IndyCar is hopeful the Motorsports Game edition will be ready at the start of 2024. Miles hinted that beta versions could be unveiled to reporters ahead of the time “to begin to show the progress in a narrow way to make sure we’ve got it right, to test the progress so that we’re ready when they’re ready.”

It’s been nearly 18 years since the release of the most recent IndyCar video game for console or PC.

“(We) better get it right,” Miles said. “It’s something we’re very close to and continue to think about what it is to make sure we get it over the line in due course.”