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USA Insider Austin Dillon's Life in the Fast Lane

NASCAR 2022 Playoffs: What To Expect And Who To Watch

What feuds will come to fruition in 2022's NASCAR Playoffs? 

By Andrew Woodin
Austin Dillon celebrates with the checkered flag after winning the NASCAR Cup Series

“Playoffs?! Don’t talk about – playoffs?! You kidding me? Playoffs?!” Oh, Jim, when it comes to the NASCAR 2022 Playoffs, we’re going to do a lot more than just talk about them because as NASCAR gasses up and throttles into high gear for the final nine races of the season, fans are already glued to several, high-octane storylines dominating the NASCAR season thus far.

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Kicking off on Sept. 4 with the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, 2022's playoffs promise to be more electric than previous years, featuring revenge-seeking rivals hungry to enact their cold-blooded retribution; the advanced Next-Gen car with sleek aerodynamics and other design updates; and, of course, this season’s breakout teams and underdogs looking to cement themselves in the history books on NASCAR’s biggest. So, without further ado, it’s time to dive into the NASCAR 2022 playoffs (look away, Coach Mora).

The Teams & Drivers To Watch

Though the usual juggernaut teams like Hendrick Motorsports have been imposing their dominance on opponents through wins from veteran wheelmen like 2021 champion Kyle Larson and 2020 champion Chase Elliott, who currently leads the points standings, it would be dangerously ignorant to discount the relative newcomer Trackhouse Racing. Co-owned by Justin Marks and Mr. Worldwide himself, Pitbull’s voltaic energy must be contagious because it’s certainly spilled over onto his team in its second year, equating to 15 top-10 finishes, 10 top-five finishes, and four historic wins by drivers Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez.

Still, expect a strong push from the ever-resilient Kyle Busch, the tough-as-nails Joey Logano, and the Watermelon Man, Ross Chastain. Don’t count the battle-tested veteran Denny Hamlin out either. Like Logano, William Byron and Chastain, he too has been burning up the track, notching two, crucial wins just like the aforementioned three drivers. Additionally, keep your eye on drivers Austin Cindric, Alex Bowman, Chase Briscoe, and Kurt Busch who each have one win apiece.

Why NASCAR’s Next-Gen Car Matters

If Batman were looking for an upgrade, he might want to start here. Aside from leaving out Vin Diesel’s favored NOS, NASCAR’s Next-Gen car is one bad mother.

Repping a durable composite body, an updated, downforce package, and a sleek new design across the board, this puppy can fly. In addition to 18-inch, forged aluminum wheels, wider tires, and wheels that utilize a single lug-nut schematic instead of the usual five of past iterations, the new specs deliver a shortened deck lid and widened track width as well. The complete dearth of sheet metal and elevated symmetry combine to create a high-horsepower, aerodynamic, coupe-like speedster that can withstand more punishment from the walls and other drivers without decreasing vehicle performance. Though the upgrades have resulted in deep cost cuts for teams, the Next-Gen car is far more difficult to drive, emphasizing what drivers and fans alike have been yearning to see more of in the sport for years: skill.

The new technological enhancements create an edge-of-your-seat gambit for drivers, forcing them to push their auto acumen to the absolute brink. It’s no longer business as usual, giving the bold and the fearless a chance to showcase what they can really do. If Dale and Ricky Bobby could only get their hands on a pair of these – Shake n’ Bake!

Austin Dillon celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series

Rivalries Galore

It’s no secret that NASCAR’s competition has fostered and nurtured a slew of fierce rivalries, and this year might as well drop the viewers straight into the Thunderdome for all the unbridled action they can handle.

With a target on his back from nearly everyone in the field, Ross Chastain just might get his comeuppance in the form of Denny Hamlin. The beef started at Gateway after Chastain wrecked Hamlin. Chastain painted the bullseye on his back in even brighter red when he plowed into veterans Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch at the All-Star Race in May. Expect the simmering feud between Joey Logano and William Byron to charge full-speed ahead, as well, as both look for payback on the other. With the gloves off, Logano went scorched earth after Byron bumped him, sending #24 hard into the wall. After winning the race, a cheeky Logano was nothing but smiles during the press conference while Byron fumed, calling Logano’s comments about retaliation "stupid" multiple times. No matter how you slice it, “rubbin’, son, is racin',” but there’s nothing sweeter than serving up a fat slice of revenge pie.

With more drama than all the daytime soaps combined, get ready for some fireworks because the 2022 Playoffs are going to be straight bonkers all the way until the last checkered flag, and the champion is crowned.