Driver Playoff Experience Not A Factor This Season

Experience matters in the playoffs, but the Round of 8 has a unique blend of talent that appears to be on equal footing.
Joey Logano, Team Penske
Joey Logano, Team Penske

The Round of 8 begins this weekend at Las Vegas where one driver will have the opportunity to lock himself into the championship race in Phoenix. A win is on the minds of every playoff driver this weekend, but a lot has changed since teams were here in March for the third race of the season.

The eight drivers are an interesting bunch, with Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin being the only drivers over the age of 30 and Logano and Chase Elliott being the only former champions of the bunch. In fact, those three are the only drivers to have ever made it to the Championship Four round.

Six of the eight playoff drivers were not even running full-time in Cup six years ago. Those drivers (Elliott, Ross Chastain, Christopher Bell, Ryan Blaney, William Byron, and Chase Briscoe) have made this the youngest Round of 8 field in playoff history, with a 30.1 average age.

Both Logano and Elliott are seeking their second title, and would normally enter this weekend with the advantage of experience. Not this year, according to the Team Penske driver. "I guess the pressure stays the same, but how you go about it and all those things, that advantage that the experienced guys had is gone." That is something that Logano sees real value in.

"I think experience always matters. The car is different, and other things are different, but the pressure is the same. As you get through these rounds, and how you execute throughout it, it’s the same. So anytime you’ve been through something before and you’re going back to it again, you’re always stronger and more comfortable in that situation. So I feel really good about where we’re at as a race team. Everyone on this team has won a championship before, they’ve been through the pressure before. I feel like we’ve got a great team to go to battle with."

Driver Playoff Experience Not A Factor This Season

To further Logano's point, three former champions have already been eliminated, in Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, and Kyle Larson. Three other former champions (Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr, Brad Keselowski) were not able to find their way into the playoffs. Blaney agrees with his teammate, and believes it is a testament to the competition of the young drivers.

"It just shows the depth across the whole field," said Blaney. "There’s a lot of guys who have never been in the playoffs, and never made it to the Round of 8. You’ve seen champions get eliminated from the playoffs already, and there’s a lot of new faces here that are not champions right now that have a shot to go to Phoenix and contend. Anybody can jump up there and make a run at this thing, no matter how much experience you have."

This season has already had a record 19 different race winners, which doesn’t include Blaney himself. That should be more than enough to prove his point.

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