As the weather starts to cool down and the season changes over, our favorite sport winds down and things start to get serious. As another playoffs rolls around there are many things on the line. Some drivers are making their first appearance, some looking to repeat titles, and some are fighting to prove they actually belong. Let’s take a deeper look into the playoffs and who is going to end up where when this season comes to a close.
Round of 16
Out: Dillon, Suarez, Briscoe, Cindric
The round of 16 features 2 of NASCARs most exciting tracks on the schedule and many opportunities for parity throughout the field. We have seen how the Next Gen car runs at Darlington and know that it will put on a show at Kansas, like most mile and a half races have been, but the real odd-ball race is Bristol. We ran there on dirt and it was a phenomenal race in my opinion but we have had some dull short track races so far this year so Bristol is really up in the air. This means that we have no idea how anyone is going to race but there are a few facts that are painfully obvious, these 4 drivers that I predict are going out are all here for a reason, they have had underwhelming seasons. Suarez came out hot but ever since his win has really not shown much. Cinders and Dillion, the Daytona winners have both only shown speed at Daytona, Dillion has a good amount of top 5 and 10 finishes but has never been a serious threat to win races and even his Daytona win was sheer luck, and luck only gets you so far in the playoffs. Briscoe was a hard one to put here because he has proven when he is fast he is a top 10 driver but when he is slow his floor is very, very low and that could cause him to slip out in the first round.
Round of 12
Out: Chastain, Bell, Bowman, Harvick
This round is where the real contenders start to blossom now that the easy pickings are out and the field is smaller. It is really crunch time. Texas, Talladega, and Charlotte are the destinations for the round of 12, decent tracks, not the best but decent. My really only bold pick out here is Chastain and I think that this round is where his season of antics is finally coming to an end and drivers that have nothing to lose are going to start getting their revenge shots in. You cannot go a whole year wrecking everyone and hitting everything on the track without some revenge coming and there is no better time to do it than the playoffs. As for Bell, Bowman and Harvick, their seasons have all been good all things considered but they do not have big enough gaps and have not run consistent enough for me to think they have what it takes to get into the top 8 in the Cup Series this year, not with how cutthroat and anyone can win it has been.
Round of 8
Out: Busch, Reddick, Blaney, Byron
These 4 drivers have all had the same story of a season, they each had their own 4-5 races run and these runs were so good they were all being talked about as drivers that could have been guys that can make a deep run and have a serious shot at the title. Blaney has been an interesting story as a driver in the playoffs without a win, which in the last 2 years has been a feat in its own. Blaney has a special something though that can get him into this round but sadly, for a fan favorite this is about as far as he can go before fizzling out. Byron and Busch are both drivers that came out swinging, Busch with 1 win and Byron with 2, these are two drivers that are always seen at the front of the field but without winning they simply will not have enough to advance. Reddick is a story in his own, the best road course racer in the serious this season simply does not have the winning record on ovals to convince me that he can make it into the final 4
Out: Elliott, Larson, Logano
These 4 drivers are the 4 drivers that I personally feel are going to dominate the playoffs and will always be the front runners. Larson and Elliott are arguably two of the best all around drivers in the field and are always guys you can expect to burn it down after the race and it will be no different this year. Logano is a dark horse to run this deep but a plate track in the playoffs could be his saving grace to get him a win and enough stage points for him to be able to string together top 5s and 10s like he has all year long, he can run deep into these playoffs and take a stab at the title. And now, the champion, Denny Hamlin. Arguably one of the best talent in the sport and a Hall of Fame contender when is career is wrapped up, is finally going to break the ice and win his first championship. This year Hamlin has done something he has not done almost ever, he wins races he should and has stopped choking, now it is up to him and his tema to carry their great season into the playoffs and clutch up again like last year but this time get it done in the big race at Phoenix.