Well, here we are, down to the final four races of the season. The Round of 8 will consist of three different disciplines of tracks and will eliminate four more drivers for championship contention. It all starts this weekend at the .526-mile Martinsville (VA) Speedway. From there, we go to another 1.5-mile track at the Texas Motor Speedway then close out the round on the one-mile ISM Raceway in Phoenix.
Heading into this round, the “Big 3” hold a wide advantage over everyone else. Kyle Busch is +40 while Kevin Harvick (+39) and Martin Truex Jr. (+23) are right behind. I feel good about where Busch and Harvick sit, but I do think Truex may be in trouble. Then, only three points separate the next four drivers for one spot. Aric Almirola is last as of now but is only 12 points back.
Who moves on and who gets eliminated?
Here’s my take.
Martinsville – I think Kyle Busch wins this race. While he’s only won once over the last 11 races, it was on a Virginia short track. Why not another? Busch, has six straight top five finishes at Martinsville including three consecutive top two results. He wins on Sunday and for the fourth straight season advances to the Championship 4.
Texas – Harvick’s pit woes stop and he gets to victory lane. He has eight straight top 10 finishes at Texas including five of which in the top three. He won this race last year and was runner-up in the spring. Two of the “Big 3” gets wins in the first two races of this round and for the fourth time in the last five years, Harvick is Championship 4 bound.
Phoenix – Chase Elliott wins again and for the first time ever, he moves onto the Championship 4. He has been so good at Phoenix before with a runner-up finish in this race last November and a third place run in the spring. In five career Phoenix starts, he has five top 12 finishes.
- Kyle Busch – Even if he doesn’t win at Martinsville, he should get a top five and extend that wide margin up top. Then, it’s onto Texas where he won at in the spring and has four top five finishes in his last six starts there. After that, it’s onto Phoenix where Busch has five straight top seven results including four of which in the top four.
- Kevin Harvick – If he can escape Martinsville, he’s good. While he does have two straight fifth place finishes on the Virginia paperclip, those are his only two top fie finishes since 2011. After that, it’s onto Texas where his stats are above. Finally, it’s to Phoenix where he’s the king of the desert. Harvick, has nine top two finishes on the ISM Raceway since 2012, seven of which wins.
- Chase Elliott – This is his round. He should have won at Martinsville last year. He has five top 11 finishes in as many tries at Texas. He has five top 12 finishes in as many tries at Phoenix including a runner-up last November and a third place run in the spring.
- Joey Logano – He’s the surprise here, I think Logano gets in over Truex. Logano, has eight top 10 finishes over his last 10 starts on the season. At Martinsville, he has four top fives and six top 10’s in his last nine starts there. At Texas, he has five straight top seven finishes, three of which in the top three. In Phoenix, he has a win in this race in 2016. He gets by to keep his every other year Championship 4 streak going.
- Martin Truex Jr. – He narrowly misses out on the Championship 4. Truex, has been great on all three tracks lately but the speed has been lacking in his No. 78 Toyota on the season and I think he narrowly misses out.
- Aric Almirola – While he’s had more speed, these just aren’t his tracks. At Martinsville, his last top 10 was back in 2014. In Texas, he has just one top 10 there in his career. Phoenix is his track but I don’t think he wins, so he can’t points his way in.
- Kurt Busch – He has one top 10 finish at Martinsville since 2006. He only has two top 10 finishes since 2002 at Texas. He has two finishes outside of the top 20 in his last three Phoenix starts.
- Clint Bowyer – While he can win at Martinsville, I don’t think he does. At Texas, his last top five was in 2011. In Phoenix, his last top five was 2008.