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Some NASCAR playoff predictions

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series 10-race playoff series will take the green flag in a few hours at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., so I guess it’s high time I make some playoff predictions. Here it goes.

This may seem easy, but its hard not to pick Martin Truex Jr. to, at the very least, get to the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. After all, the four-time winner heads into the playoffs with an astounding 53 playoff points. And remember, under the new format, he’ll carry those playoff points, along with any more playoff points earned along the way, from round to round, until the playoff circus arrives at Homestead.

Of course, those points won’t get him to the title. Heck, they won’t even matter at Homestead-Miami, as the final four race “heads-up” for the title; the highest finisher among the four will be the champ. Considering Truex has four wins in the first 26 races on multiple types of race tracks, including mile-and-a-halfs (the size of HMS), I’m going to go out on a very short limb and predict Truex as the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion.

Of course, Kyle Larson also has four wins and has many other finishes up front. He finished in the top-two in five of the first seven races, and in addition to his four wins, he has seven runner-up finishes. Also worth noting, Larson heads into the playoffs second to Truex in points. And like Truex’s 53 playoff points, so far, Larson’s 33 playoff points also will be there from round to round, as long as Larson remains in the playoffs. And I expect them to go with him, right to Homestead.

Joe Gibbs Racing got off to a sputtering start to the 2017 season, but that organization has, obviously, righted the ship. Therefore, there’s not reason to be surprised if two JGR entries are still in the running at Homestead.

In his continued rant of a Toyota advantage, Brad Keselowski recently predicted a possible final four of Toyotas. Well, I think Larson’s going to throw a proverbial monkey wrench into that prediction, but with Truex and renewed JGR camp, I think Keselowski’s prediction is going to come close to coming true with three Toyotas among the final four.

But which two JGR drivers will be there? Decisions, decisions.

I’m going to go with Kyle Busch taking one of those slots. Picking the second, though, isn’t so easy. I think I’ll go with Matt Kenseth.

That may seem a little odd — picking Kenseth over Hamlin. After all, Hamlin’s won twice, even though one was encumbered and, as a result, don’t count in terms of playoffs, while Kenseth hasn’t won a race since last year. Here’s what I’m thinking:

Kenseth has been close to winning, but some bad luck has gotten in the way. Heck, and ambulance has even retired him from a race. Meanwhile, I think Hamlin will be missing a little something, perhaps that little something that resulted in his win from a few weeks ago being “encumbered.”

Now, lets rewind back to the first round of the playoffs to predict the first four drivers to be eliminated. That first round consists of races at Chicagoland, New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon and Dover (Del.) International Speedway.

I’m seeing Jamie McMurray, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kasey Kahne and Austin Dillon as the first four out.

It may seem odd that I’m picking three race winners among the first four out. Heck, I even threw in two-race winner Stenhouse. Stenhouse, though, won both his races on restrictor-plate tracks. He hasn’t been much of a factor anywhere else. Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway is in the playoffs, but it’ll be a couple of races too late to save Stenhouse, as it plays host to the second race of the second round.

Yes, Dillon has his win, but he wasn’t much of a contender in the other 25, overall. He wasn’t even remotely near the top-16 of the points standings before the playoff point readjustment. Same goes for Kahne.

As for McMurray, he’s the only driver in the playoffs without the benefit of playoff points, so he doesn’t have a cushion of bonus points to relay on from round to round when the going gets tough.

I’ve tackled the 16 to 12 elimination points and the eight to four elimination point, leaving out the point in the playoffs at which the field is whittled from 12 to eight drivers. I’ll make one bold prediction there — Hendrick Motorsports drivers Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott will fail to advance to the field of eight. Yes, I realize Johnson is a three-time winner, but those wins came early in the season, and quite frankly, the entire Hendrick Motorsports camp hasn’t done much to impress me since then.

Haven’t filled-out your playoffs grid, yet? What’s the hold-up? Get your backet from Auto Racing Daily by clicking here.

Follow Auto Racing Daily on Twitter @AutoRacingDaily or like Auto Racing Daily on Facebook (facebook.com/autorcngdaily). Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook (facebook.com/nascarexaminer)

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Posted by on September 17, 2017. Filed under Blog by Amanda Vincent,Featured,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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