The regular season is now behind us. 26 races down, 10 more to go. The next 10 weeks are sure to be wild in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series as we’ll crown a champion in November at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.
In terms of how the playoffs will go, it’s really wide open right now. The year started off with it being the “Big 3” and everybody else. Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. combined to win 16 of the first 21 races. But, over the final five races of the regular season, they were 1-for-5.
Will they regain their form or will the drivers with all the momentum heading into the playoffs remain hot?
It’s no secret, the “Big 3” are at their best on 1.5-mile tracks. Since we haven’t raced on one since July 14, maybe that’s part of the reason for their recent decline. The problem for them is, other than this Sunday’s race in Las Vegas, there are only one 1.5-mile track in each of the first three rounds.
We have Richmond and Talladega as the penultimate races of the first and second rounds respectively and a new ROVAL as the cutoff race to the first round. It should set up a crazy playoff battle.
Here are my predictions for this year’s playoffs.
Las Vegas – Winner (Kevin Harvick) He leads the series is every major statistical category. Wins, laps led, top fives, top 10’s, etc. He won in Vegas back in the spring while he and Busch and Truex have combined to win the last 13 straight races on 1.5-mile tracks and 15 of the last 18.
Richmond – Winner (Denny Hamlin) What a spot to earn his first victory of the season. He was strong at Indy and heads to Richmond with six straight top six finishes including a third place run in the spring.
Charlotte – Winner (Martin Truex Jr.) He won in Sonoma and finished second at Watkins Glen. He’s among the best road racers in the series right now.
4 Drivers That Will Be Eliminated: Austin Dillon, Jimmie Johnson, Alex Bowman, Aric Almirola.
Dover – Winner (Kyle Busch) He’s due for a win and he gets it. His last three finishes in the fall race were second, second and first respectively.
Talladega – Winner (Brad Keselowski) Ford has won seven of the last nine restrictor plate races including being dominant at Talladega. Keselowski, is the top plate racer in the game.
Kansas – Winner (Kevin Harvick) He won the spring race and has been dominant on 1.5-mile track. See above on Vegas.
4 Drivers That Will Be Eliminated: Clint Bowyer, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano
Martinsville – Winner (Kyle Busch) He has three straight top two finishes in Martinsville and four in his last five starts there. Need I say more?
Texas – Winner (Kevin Harvick) See Vegas and Kansas stats above. Plus, Harvick eight straight top 10 finishes at Texas, five of which in the top three. Why not have the top two drivers stamp their names into the Championship 4 in the first two races.
Phoenix – Winner (Chase Elliott) – He finished second in this race last year and third in the spring. In the fall race in 2016, he led 106 laps in a 12th place effort. Phoenix is one of Elliott’s best tracks and this would be a very popular victory.
4 Drivers Eliminated: Kurt Busch, Erik Jones, Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin
Homestead – Winner (Kevin Harvick) He’s so good at Homestead and due to his speed on 1.5-mile tracks this season, he wins the race and the championship.
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