Finally, the races we have all been waiting for are here, the playoffs! Whether you like the format or not they are here and this is where we see drivers rise up to the occasion or crumble under the pressures of needing to win races to stay alive. This year for the playoffs me and my two friends Matt and Max have decided to see who can predict the playoffs the best by seeing who can get the most eliminations right. Matt is an old man compared to me and Max so he has something we do not yet, the wisdom of the sport we all love and how crazy stuff can really get, he has truly seen it all in his long life. To see my friends’ predictions check out their links here (Matt- https://tehben.com/2021/09/02/2021-nascar-cup-full-playoff-predictions/ Max https://motormax.car.blog/2021/09/02/2021-nascar-cup-series-playoff-predictions/ Now let’s see how I think the playoffs will pan out during what NASCAR is calling the best season ever.
Round of 16 Darlington, Richmond, Bristol
OUT AFTER DARLINGTON
Mcdowell, Harvick, Bell, Amlirola
Starting the playoffs at Darlington is always going to be a good time. The oldest track combined with the hardest track and the fact that it is the opening race of the playoffs when the drivers are needing to do everything to get a win and lock themselves into the next round early to take off pressure of the playoffs in what is one of the harder rounds in terms of track difficulty. The 4 drivers that I have slated to leave early are all drivers who have had good, but not great seasons. 3 out of 4 have had wins but other than their 1 win on the season never really were in contention for another one adn rode in and around the top 10-15 for most of the season. Winners in this round I think are going to be the usual guys we see running up front this season. I predict Larson wins Darlington and Chase Elliott to steal the win at Richmond. Winning at Bristol was a hard choice for me because there are so many good drivers that can dominate the track but who other than the man that got snubbed by lapped traffic last year in the closing laps to redeem himself this year, KFB, Kyle freaking Busch. The biggest shocker that has been going on all season is Kevin Harvick’s winless streak that, sadly, the way it’s looking is going to continue into the playoffs and therefore see him get the boot early. The best driver all year last year whose season ended face first into the wall at Martinsville, will sadly see his season end way earlier than he is used to, maybe even his career at SHR.
OUT AFTER ROVAL
Keselowski, Reddick, Byron, Kurt Busch
Ah the round of 12, personally one of my favorite rounds because I am a believer that the playoff field should be 12 to begin with because then it is not just drivers that happened to have 1 good night sneaking in only to get dropped from the playoffs in the first 3 races and become names that we all bring up in conversations like “remember when ____ won at ___” and are never talked about again. I also do love the fact that this is when the drivers start to get a little more aggressive, teammates start working together less, more beating and banging into corners, the cutline grows, and overall leads to better racing. I think it is very clear that Larson yet again advances past this round simply due to how far ahead in points he is and assuming he continues his dominance in the first 3 playoff races. The other given is that the road course king, Chase Elliott, makes his return to the promised land of victory lane at the Roval.
I have a bold prediction that there will also be a big win coming from the Penske garage from Joey Logano getting another win on the season at Talladega, the same track that he got to see from a different perspective last time we went due to a blowover after getting hooked ending his race early.
Vegas is a wildcard for me, I do not know how the race will go at all. My two picks for the race however are MTJ and Alex Bowman to slug it out and fight for a win together.
OUT AFTER Matrinsville
Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Alex Bowman
The final 3 races leading up to the season finale at the newly renovated Phoenix are very exciting. Gone are the times of drivers like Larson and Hamling just staying out of trouble and riding around, it became time for drivers to step up and prove they belong in the final 4 and championship contention. Drivers that have not necessarily been coasting but also have not been winning a lot need to also step their game up, this is where the big dogs rise up and claim their spot no matter what it takes. Denny Hamlin, the biggest name on the list of drivers eliminated is going to be very exciting to watch, if he does what he has been doing, which is everything but win, he will see an early exit in the playoffs and cap off a disappointing season with more disappointment.
Logano, Blaney, and Bowman are all going into this round as multi race winners this year but I do not think they have anything for an absolutely dominant duo with Chase Elliott, who honestly could have 3 or 4 wins this year if a little bit of luck went his way, and Kyle Larson, who has shown he can win at any track you put him. To piggyback off that, I also think Lason sweeps the first 2 races at Kansas and Texas, both 550 package races where he has been the best driver in the field every time they race that package, and Chase Elliott doing what Chase does, rise up when it matters most and punch his ticket to the final 4 by another huge race at Martinsville.
When it is all said and done the final 4 will go in this order, Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott, and Kyle Busch.
This is a bold final 4 I know, but hear me out. There is no way Kyle Larson does not make this round, he is so far ahead of everyone he can miss a race and still be above the cutline. Martin Truex Jr. was the best driver in the field at the early stages of this season and older athletes are well known to turn on the switch when it matters and get back to their elite levels that they might not be able to run all season. The old man’s wisdom and knowledge can get MTJ simply because he knows everything he needs to do, he has been here before and can still hang with the young guns when he has too. Chase Elliott is looking to defend and repeat his title, the driver who in my mind is still the best driver in the field and is very clearly the most clutch driver in the field, can easily run the way he has been all year and get his way in by winning in the big moments. The real wildcard here is Kyle Busch. Some people forget that we witnessed the birth of KFB last year, and then we saw him put on a fuel saving clinic at Texas and winning a race as a driver outside the playoffs, something we do not really see often, by saving every last drop of fuel and coasting to a win and keeping his yearly win streak alive another year. Coming off a 2 win regular season Kyle Busch is another one of those guys that can turn it on when it matters and is looking to become KFB times 3.
Champion- I predict that Chase will defend his crown and go back to back at Phoenix in the big race for the second time. Chase was dominant there last time when the stakes were highest. At first I was thinking Larson would continue his dominance but as I was listening to the Door Bumper Clear podcast the guys on the show were saying that Chase is so fast that they did not want to tell their driver how much faster Chase was than the rest of the field. Chase is known to turn it on when it counts and if he can repeat his drive last year we will see NASCARs most popular driver repeat his feat from last year and go back to back in the Cup Series Championship.
I wish my competitors the best of luck throughout the playoffs and may the best man win!