South Dade News Leader: Matt Becherer

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Matt Becherer

Friday 09/22/2017
Bringing the Intensity - NASCAR playoffs move to New Hampshire this weekend

When it comes to sports, there are always competitive juices flowing between athletes. It doesn’t matter who is on the other side of the ball or leading the pack on the track, that person is an opponent, and the main goal is to beat them. And though athletes want to win no matter how big or small the circumstance is, the will to win certainly increases when the stakes are at their highest.

This premise is even more apparent when teams have advanced out of the regular season and are battling in the playoffs. In sports such as basketball, football, hockey and baseball, the intensity is noticeably heightened during competition, as nerves are elevated, risks are being taken and the energy is at an all-time high.

Like the aforementioned sports, the same holds true for NASCAR and its postseason. Since the revamped playoff format was introduced in 2014 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, each race has been filled with unprecedented drama. Starting with the first race in the Round of 16 to the Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 19, every driver in the playoff field is vying for a win. After all, that’s the only sure way to advance out of each round and ultimately win a championship.

The intensity of the Monster Energy Series playoffs continued to showcase itself last Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway – the first race in the Round of 16. You could see the extra level of competitiveness all over the 1.5-mile oval, as all 16 drivers in the playoffs fought for track position. To give an idea of how important a win is in the postseason, there were a total of 12 lead changes among seven drivers in the 400-mile race. Six of those seven drivers are in the playoffs.

Not only was the white-black checkered flag at the end of the race seen as a valuable commodity, but so were the green-white checkered flags at the end of Stage 1 and 2. With the implementation of the new stage format in all three of NASCAR’s national series at the beginning of this season, there have been more climactic moments throughout the course of races.

The same held true at Chicagoland with a split in stage wins, as series champion Kyle Busch was victorious in Stage 1, and second-year Cup driver Chase Elliot took home Stage 2.

Also on display during each of the 267 laps in the race, were drivers and teams making calculated moves in hopes of gaining better track position. The trickiest part of this, however, is trying to make the correct move without making a mistake, all while being under the immense amount of pressure that comes with the playoffs. For many drivers in last Sunday’s showdown, mistakes were detrimental to their overall performance.

After winning Stage 1, Busch had issues on pit road because of a loose wheel and followed that by having one of his crewman flagged for stepping over the wall too early. The mishaps gave Busch a 15th place finish on the day. Other playoff drivers who faced trouble were Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (25th), who was penalized for a commitment line violation, and Austin Dillon (16th) and Kurt Busch (19th), who both were caught speeding on pit road.

One driver who was able to overcome his mistake was regular-season champion Martin Truex Jr. As he has throughout most of the season, Truex was able to show poise on the biggest of stages. And after receiving a penalty for speeding on pit road that put him towards the back of the field, he was able to march his way to the front, ultimately capturing the win. The victory automatically advances Truex to the Round of 12.

The intensity of the 2017 Monster Energy Series Playoffs will continue as the circuit moves to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the second race in the Round of 16 this Sunday. The playoffs will culminate at Homestead-Miami Speedway with the Ford EcoBoost 400 on November 19, where there is sure to be plenty of fireworks as the Championship 4 battle for the series crown.

NASCAR ACTION THIS WEEKEND

Sunday, September 24 at 2:00 PM (ET)

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series ISM Connect 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway

Tune In: NBCSN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90

Saturday, September 23 at 8:00 PM (ET)

NASCAR XFINITY Series VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 at Kentucky Speedway

Tune In: NBCSN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90

Saturday, September 23 at 1:00 PM (ET)

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series UNOH 175 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway

Tune In: FS1 and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90

UPCOMING EVENTS AT HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY

Sept. 23 Performance Driving Group

Sept. 30- Oct. 1 Ferrari Challenge

Oct. 7-8 Championship Cup Series Motorcycle Racing

Oct. 13 Fast Lane Friday presented by The Ticket Clinic

Oct. 14-15 Rusty Wallace Racing Experience

Oct. 20 Miami Exotic Auto Racing

2017 HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY NASCAR DATES

Nov. 17 Ford EcoBoost 200 Camping World Truck Series Championship Race

Nov. 18 Ford EcoBoost 300 XFINITY Series Championship Race

Nov. 19 Ford EcoBoost 400 Monster Energy Series Championship Race

Posted in Opinion, Columnists, Matt becherer, Sports on Friday, September 22, 2017 9:16 am. Comments (0)

MATT BECHERER

Matt Becherer is President of Homestead-Miami Speedway. This long-time motorsports executive is one of the good guys, and he leads a team of 40 that operate the track. If you would like to talk to Matt, he can be reached at chatwithmatt @homesteadmiamispeedway.com.

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