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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup

Handicapping The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Playoffs

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The 10-race, season-ending Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs kick off Sunday with the running of the Tales of the Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.

Let the racing begin and for some, the wagering, too. Here’s how handicaps the Cup playoff field for 2017.

  1. Kasey Kahne, 100-1

Well, somebody has to be listed as last, and Kahne is that guy, a lame duck on a Hendrick Motorsports team that’s lacked speed much of the year.

  1. Austin Dillon, 80-1

The only reason Dillon made the playoffs at all is a late-race fuel-mileage gamble that allowed him to win the 400-lap Coca-Cola 600 by leading only laps 399 and 400.

  1. Ryan Newman, 80-1

A victory at Phoenix early in the season snapped a 127-race winless streak for Newman and a 112-race winless streak for Richard Childress Racing.

  1. Jamie McMurray, 66-1

McMurray amassed just 3 playoff points during the regular season, fewest of any of the 16 drivers contending for the championship. And he hasn’t won in the last 138 races.

  1. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 50-1

Stenhouse got his first two career Cup victories this year at the two restrictor-plate tracks, but hasn’t finished better than 14th since winning the July Daytona race.

  1. Kurt Busch, 50-1

An up-and-down year for Busch began with a surprise last-lap win in the Daytona 500, followed by a long ho-hum stretch. But he’s finished sixth or better in four of the last five races and could be a sleeper.

  1. Ryan Blaney, 33-1

In the playoffs for the first time, Blaney got the Wood Brother Racing team its first playoff slot, too. He has had speed, but putting together clean races has at times been a struggle.

  1. Matt Kenseth, 25-1

Still without a confirmed ride of 2018, Kenseth is in his final year with Joe Gibbs Racing, where he has enjoyed considerable success. Still capable of winning races.

  1. Chase Elliott, 16-1

In the last eight races, Elliott’s best finish was eighth at Michigan. The second-year driver undoubtedly has talent, but his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets need more speed.

  1. Denny Hamlin, 10-1

Several times before, Hamlin has come close, including 2010, when he had the points lead going into the final race. His Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas have been fast.

  1. Brad Keselowski, 8-1

The 2012 champion has made no bones about the fact that the Team Penske Fords don’t have the speed of the front-running Toyotas. Keselowski’s teammate Joey Logano didn’t even make the playoffs, which was a huge shock.

  1. Jimmie Johnson, 8-1

The seven-time champion won three of the first 13 races. The next 13? Zero top fives, two top 10s, a best finish of eighth and just 16 laps led. Still, he’s never, ever out of it until he’s officially out of it.

  1. Kevin Harvick, 8-1

Stewart-Haas Racing’s decision to switch from Chevrolet to Ford this year has been a huge adjustment for the team. Nevertheless, Harvick is a recent champion on one of the sport’s elite teams. Don’t sleep on him.

  1. Kyle Larson, 9-2

Fresh of his late-race charge to victory at Richmond, Larson and his Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet have been wicked fast all season, and he comes into the playoffs second in points behind only Martin Truex Jr.

  1. Kyle Busch, 7-2

This year, Busch and his Joe Gibbs Racing team has been something of an enigma. He’s led 18.22 percent of the laps run this year, but has only won a pair of races. Still, he’s an absolute threat to win a second championship to go with his 2015 title.

  1. Martin Truex Jr., 13-4

The regular season points leader, Truex has been dominant this season, with his Furniture Row Racing Toyota leading 22.23 percent of the laps run all year long. But he and the team have let a couple of wins slip away, so they must execute in the playoffs.

All article photos courtesy of Nigel Kinrade Photography © 2017 

Tom Jensen

Tom Jensen is a veteran motorsports journalist. He spent 13 years with, where he was Digital Content Manager. Previously, he was executive editor of NASCAR Scene and managing editor of National Speed Sport News. Jensen served as the president of the National Motorsports Press Association and is the group’s former Writer of the Year.