Sunday is crunch time in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. The Hollywood Casino 400 (2:30 p.m. ET/NBCSN/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) will mark the sixth race of the postseason but the third and final race of the Round of 12. Right now, 12 drivers enter with championship hopes still being alive and only eight will come out of the race with the aspirations still intact.
We know both Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney are advancing to the Round of 8. They’ll do so via their wins in each of the last two weeks. But, who’s joining them?
The Joe Gibbs Racing trio look the part. Denny Hamlin (+56), Martin Truex Jr. (+48) and Kyle Busch (+41) hold good spots in the standings and despite Hamlin and Busch’s ho-hum stats at the Kansas Speedway lately, a top 15 would suffice.
Kevin Harvick is +36 and has been just average lately in Kansas. While he won the spring race last year, his other three finishes recently are eighth (2017 playoff race), 12th (2018 playoff race) and 13th (2019 spring race). That though will be enough to advance him if he can keep that up.
That leaves the three Hendrick drivers and Clint Bowyer trying to knock out the Team Penske duo of Brad Keselowski (+20) and Joey Logano (+18) for the final two spots.
Logano, in my opinion, is susceptible this weekend. He’s scored just one top five in his last 14 starts on the season. Three of his last four Kansas starts have seen him finish 15th or worse. That doesn’t bode well for a driver trying to hold off the Hendrick brigade but if he can score enough stage points, it may be a tough gap for anyone to make up.
The drivers around him went 1st (Brad Keselowski), 2nd (Alex Bowman), 4th (Chase Elliott) and 5th (Clint Bowyer) back in May at Kansas. Logano, finished 15th.
If Bowman, Elliott, Bowyer or even William Byron can win on Sunday, the final spot will come down to Keselowski and Logano. A two point gap is between them.I think the advantage goes to Keselowski if that is the case.
Right now, my pick is Bowman wins and Keselowski advances over Logano for the final spot.
Bowman, has been fantastic recently with his lone win coming on a similar 1.5-mile track in Chicagoland. He crashed out while leading on Monday in Talladega and prior to that had three top six finishes in four tries during the playoffs including results of second on the Charlotte ROVAL and third in Dover.