The Round of 12 will start on Sunday at the Dover International Speedway. We know that eight drivers will advance to the third round of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs while four will be eliminated.
So, who moves on and who doesn’t?
Race winners this round definitely move on, so I think Chase Elliott wins at Dover, Alex Bowman at Talladega and Kyle Larson in Kansas. Notice, I didn’t mention any Joe Gibbs Racing, Team Penske or Stewart-Haas Racing drivers.
That’s why this round could be very interesting.
Even if these three don’t win, these are three good tracks for them.
Chase Elliott won last Sunday in Charlotte and also won the playoff races last year at Dover and Kansas. Those are the first and third races of this round. The middle race at Talladega, Elliott was victorious at back in April. This could be a very good round for him. He has six top five finishes in seven Dover starts and three top four finishes in his last four Kansas starts.
Alex Bowman finished second last weekend in Charlotte and runner-up at literally all three of these playoffs tracks this round earlier this season. The momentum is starting to sway towards his side.
Kyle Larson has seven top eight finishes in his last nine starts on the year to go along with a third place run at Dover back in May. He also has four top 10 finishes in his last five Dover starts. At Kansas, Larson was fourth and eighth respectively in the last two spring races and third in the playoff race last year.
See why they can make things interesting. Heading into this round, Elliott is sixth and Larson eighth. Bowman, is ninth. If all three make it, at least one of the current top eight drivers won’t.
I think the top four of the standings are on upset alert and one of them may not move on. They’ll have to bank on their playoff points but those can only go so far.
The JGR trio lead the points standings right now but two of the three are reeling.
Kyle Busch may be the current points leader at +41 over the bubble, but he hasn’t won a race since June 2. Busch, also has scored just four top five finishes in his last 12 starts on the season. Dover has been good to him in the fall (3 top 2’s in his last 4 starts) but the Monster Mile is capable of biting him too with four finishes of 30th or worse in his last six spring races there. His best result in the spring is 10th. Then, it’s to Talladega, a place that’s a crapshoot. From there, it’s to Kansas, a place Busch finished 30th at back in May. With three finishes of 19th or worse in his last four, this could be a worrisome round for the JGR driver.
Same for his championship eligible teammates.
Martin Truex Jr. won at Dover back in the spring and does have five top four finishes in his last six starts there, but he also was 15th in last year’s playoff race. Again, Talladega is next, a place Truex has always struggled. Finally, it’s to Kansas where Truex came home 19th back in the spring. He, like Busch, needs to get a great start this weekend at Dover.
Denny Hamlin has just two top five finishes since the Fall of 2010 at Dover. He’s a good superspeedway racer but you can’t bank of a good finish at Talladega though. Anything can happen there. Then, it’s to Kansas where Hamlin was 16th back in May and 14th in last year’s playoff race. Hamlin, had a stretch of six consecutive top five finishes late in the summer, he’s had three finishes of 15th or worse in his last five since.
All three of them could struggle this round and have to bank of playoff points to get them by.
What about Joey Logano?
He hasn’t won since June 10. He has just two top five finishes at Dover since 2014. He was seventh on the Monster Mile back in May. Talladega could be a good place for him if he’s lucky. Then, it’s to Kansas to close the round where he finished 15th back in May and has three finishes of 15th or worse in his last five starts there.
The top four may not be the top four in three weeks.
Kevin Harvick may be safe as he has nine top eight finishes in his last nine starts on the season. He was also fourth at Dover in May and has four top 10’s in his last five starts there. Kansas, he has eight top 10’s in his last 12 overall starts including a win just last year. He’s led 70 or more laps in three of his last five starts at Kansas including 76 back in May.
Brad Keselowski should be good. He has five top five finishes in his last six starts on the season and eight top 10’s in his last 10 overall. He has three top 10’s in his last four Dover starts, is always good at Talladega and won at Kansas back in May.
Clint Bowyer can make things interesting. He has five top 10 finishes in his last six starts on the year. He’s a good superspeedway racer so Talladega may be good for him. He has three top 10’s in his last four Dover starts and was fifth at Kansas back in May.
William Byron hasn’t been too strong on these tracks in the past but does enter this round with three top seven finishes in his last four tries.
Ryan Blaney has been strong as of late too.
So, who moves on and who doesn’t is the big question?
I think Byron and Blaney are two of the four eliminated. They lack the playoff points and would likely need top fives or a win. Byron, has never won and has four career top five finishes in Cup. Blaney, has just two top five finishes in his last nine starts on the season and could be in trouble after Dover and Talladega.
A surprise pick to not make it is Logano. He hasn’t won since June 10 and has just one top five in his last 12 starts. If he starts off rough at Dover and gets in an incident in Talladega, he may have a tall hill to climb.
The fourth to not make it will be Bowyer and only because he lacks playoff points. Bowyer, hasn’t won in over a year and out of all of his top 10’s lately, he’s not getting top fives. He has just two in his last 15 races. That, like Byron and Blaney will cost him.
Hamlin, will sneak by but only because of playoff points accumulated.
- 9 Elliott
- 88 Bowman
- 42 Larson
- 4 Harvick
- 2 Keselowski
- 18 KyBusch
- 19 Truex Jr.
- 11 Hamlin
9. 22 Logano
10. 14 Bowyer
11. 12 Blaney
12. 24 Byron