The obvious statement is that every driver in this round of 8 has the potential to make it to the next round, but truly every driver left has gone on their hot streaks through this season and can do it here. With Texas, Kansas, and Martinsville, this is probably going to end up being the most boring round until the end, but with all the different storylines and as bunched up as the points are, there will be plenty of drama.
I feel like this might be the most competitive playoffs in many years, and even Kyle Larson isn’t safe from elimination. Kevin Harvick’s round of 8 botches last season proves that anything can happen. Whenever Brad Keselowski is your weakest link in the round of 8, you know that it’s going to be ultra-competitive. Every lap of every race is going to be important. Probably why NASCAR saved Texas and Kansas until this round, to guarantee something decent will happen.
Who is going to be able to survive and make it to the championship 4?
I think Hamlin is going to reclaim the top spot after this round. While seeding means nothing at Phoenix, I think it’s worth noting my confidence in Hamlin to make it. He’s come on strong late this season, and the championship seems more in his grasp than ever before.
His stats at Texas, Kansas, and Martinsville are favorable compared to every driver and with this momentum, he’s carrying I honestly think he’s the strongest lock to make it.
With his incredible dominance, it’s near impossible to leave him out of the Championship 4. Despite me seeing a possible outcome where he doesn’t make it, I think this team has too much perseverance to go down.
I have no doubt he will perform and possibly even win at Texas or Kansas, but Martinsville has remained a tricky track for him. While he will perform well enough to make it through, this is the track where trouble has an opportunity to strike.
Quietly the most consistent driver in the playoffs, Blaney has the opportunity to truly take the next step that fans have been waiting for. It’s a risky pick, but just like with Hamlin, Blaney seems to be having a different kind of year. He has cleaned up his driving mistakes, but his inconsistencies this season have been largely due to his pit crew.
He is on a streak of 3 straight top tens at Texas and his Martinsville stats are near the best in the field. Both races have the potential to be won for him, and last time we were at Martinsville he had the car to beat if not for a late-race pit stop penalty that shuffled him too far back. While Kansas has been a bit of a weak link, he’s shown the ability to run here well in the past, just gets caught in bad luck.
Martin Truex Jr.
With a win at Martinsville earlier in the season and a favorable look at Texas and Kansas, I think that MTJ will continue to ride his consistency this season. He might not do it with flash, but I think he will be the guy that scoots into the championship 4 while chaos ensues around him.
This team has been strong enough all year to remain top ten threats each week even when they’re going through a rough turn. If he can just keep the average pace that he’s shown at each track, then he should have no issues making it through.
He has the speed and ability on all these tracks to point his way into the Championship 4. The issue I foresee with Elliott is the rivalry he’s started with Harvick. While there is a chance it’s over, Harvick did not seem too keen on letting it go.
This is why despite you being in the right, it’s never smart to make enemies in the playoffs. His actions at Bristol could very well be what keeps him from a championship. If Harvick leaves him alone then I think Elliott makes it, but I don’t think this is over.
This hasn’t been the usual year for Logano. You can’t be mad if you’re a fan of a historic win on dirt as well as a round of 8 appearance. Though, this isn’t the normal championship season we’re used to expecting from him.
He runs well at all these tracks and I believe he’ll remain in contention until the very end, but I think his struggles will remain. He hasn’t been able to shake off whatever anchor seems to be weighing this team down, and it’s to the point where it’s impressive he’s made it this far. For that, I have a hard time seeing him beat out the stiff competition.
Much like Logano, Busch has had a solid year but not a great year. Strong stats at every track we’ve got coming out, but something is missing. There’s a piece to this puzzle that if the right piece gets put in place I could see him pulling off a win, especially at Kansas where he won earlier this season.
With his crew chief, Ben Beshore suspended for this race, I worry about the team staying afloat this week. Getting off to a bad start is shooting yourself in the foot, and without the leadership of Beshore, there are so many things that could go wrong.
We cannot count him out, by no means is he going to be an easy knockoff. The issue with Brad is that this team has not consistently shown race-winning speed all year. In fact, from memory, there has only been a handful of races this year where I remember seeing him in contention.
Of everyone, Keselowski is the one I don’t see pulling off a win in the next three races. He has the talent and capability to do it, but the way his team has performed it doesn’t seem like they’ll be able to. I don’t trust his ability to be consistent enough to point his way in.