Chase Elliott has become the main target to a guy who has no qualms enacting a little revenge. It had me super nervous about Elliott’s playoff advancement chances because one of the last things you need is to have payback coming in the playoffs.
The only current saving grace for Elliott is Harvick still has a lot to play for in this round. He cannot afford to get caught up in a battle with Chase, and since Harvick doesn’t have any bonus points to jump off from, he has to fight for every spot. Now, if he’s eliminated, Chase better be on full guard in the round of 8, but he’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.
I think Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., and Ryan Blaney are all safe and primed to make it to the round of 8. All of them have great records at all three tracks (except for Elliott at Las Vegas) and have enough bonus points to not stress as long as nothing goes wrong.
This leaves three spots being fought for between Alex Bowman, William Byron, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Christopher Bell, and Kyle Busch. Six of those seven names are just odd to see on the cut line, but that’s how competitive this season has been. Bell is the outlier here, his time will come, but it won’t be this season.
I’m going to break down my prediction for who I think makes it to the round of 8 and who will wrap up their championship hopes at Charlotte. Because of the competitive level this season, there will be a couple of shocks.
Not a big shock, despite Bell looking to have positive momentum, his team and he just aren’t consistent enough to play with the big boys this season. He was expected to get shut out in the first round, so I’d call making it here a solid success for his second season.
None of the upcoming tracks give you hope when it comes to Bell this season. He has only 1 top ten in the combined 7 times he’s visited all these tracks. While he could pull off an upset win at Talladega or even the Roval, I think that the competition will be too stiff.
Byron was expected to make it to this round but found himself quickly in trouble after Darlington. His luck turned around and he pulled off an impressive charge at Bristol, a track he has always struggled at. This momentum bodes well for him, but like Bell, I think his late-season inconsistency will be the death of him.
He has solid stats at all three tracks, nothing exciting, but nothing scary. What gives me hesitancy is that Byron has had poor luck recently and even if he can have good runs at Vegas and Charlotte, I don’t think he can win at either, and I fear for his ability to finish the race at Talladega.
Like Byron, some late-season bad luck has been hitting Bowman hard. Despite winning three races this season, the consistency has not been there for him. He did what he had to do to make it to the next round, but he feels like an underdog at this point. Before the playoffs started, I would’ve called him a lock for the round of 8, and I don’t feel that way at all now.
It’s no disrespect to Bowman, like the other two mentioned above will get their time. Bowman has a great chance at proving me wrong because he has been solid at all the tracks were visiting, but I still don’t trust him to not make mistakes, and I think that’s what this round will come down to.
If you look at Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr.’s first-round success, you’d expect to see Kyle right behind them. Unfortunately, Busch has been dealing with a lot of the same issues that have plagued his team from last year that are still lingering this season.
I think his chances at Vegas are 50-50. He sometimes has the car to beat there, and sometimes has a multitude of issues and I expect the same on Sunday. The biggest thing is even if he has a solid day at Vegas if it’s not a win I don’t have confidence he’ll make it off of his Talladega and Roval results. He always seems to get swept up in issues at both tracks.
Who makes it in?
I think that Harvick is the type of guy to only get better from frustration. Vengeful enough to not want to wreck Elliott, but to beat him instead. There is a lot of positives to take away from the round of 16 for Harvick. While he was in constant danger, he ran so well, it never seemed that way. He competed at every track and he is in line to do the same with these next three.
I think that his experience is what will propel him past guys like Bowman and Byron. While experience doesn’t get you but so far, Harvick has seemed different since the playoffs started. This feels like the opposite of last season where the team was hot until the playoffs, now it seems they’ve saved the best for last.
Everybody is writing off Keselowski, but I have a lot of faith in this team. This is a good round for him, and while Penske has essentially shut the doors on him early, I still think he’ll be given enough to make it.
In his last 16 starts at Las Vegas, he has 3 wins and 11 top tens, at Talladega he has 6 wins and runs well at the Roval if he doesn’t wreck himself. I’m aware of the fact the Keselowski is all but written off, and this might be a longshot, but I think he’s going to make it in easier than people expect.
The second half of the season has been up and down, but he’s been able to run well when it counts. Despite an off-year, He had an average finish of 8th in the first round of the playoffs. This team seems to be finding its stride at the right time.
In 16 starts at Vegas, he has 2 wins and 11 top tens, with 3 wins at Talladega, and has never finished outside the top ten at the Roval. I think outside of getting caught into trouble, Joey is a near-lock to make it to the next round.
Round of 8:
- Kyle Larson
- Ryan Blaney
- Denny Hamlin
- Martin Truex Jr.
- Chase Elliott
- Joey Logano
- Brad Keselowski
- Kevin Harvick
- Kyle Busch
- Alex Bowman
- William Byron
- Christopher Bell