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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup

PREVIEW: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 12

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Following the craziness at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL, four drivers saw their hopes at winning a championship this year end as they were eliminated from the playoffs. Now 12 competitors remain entering the second round, with another four set to see their dreams extinguished in three races.

As we get set for this weekend’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event at Dover International Speedway, here is a preview ahead of the Round of 12.

Matthew T. Thacker | NKP

1. Kyle Busch +41

Virtue of four victories, 11 stage wins, and the regular season championship, Kyle Busch enters Dover with a healthy advantage. But he does not have any momentum on his side with just a single top-15 finish – second at Richmond Raceway – in the first round. That said, as long as he is solid through the next three weeks, he should easily move forward in the post-season.

Dover International Speedway – In 29 starts, he has won three races with 18 top-10 finishes. Most recently, he has a win and three top-10’s in his last three appearances.

Talladega Superspeedway – In 28 starts, he has just six top-five and eight top-10 finishes, including a single victory. Most recently, though, he has a best finish of 10th in his last four appearances.

Kansas Speedway – In 23 starts, he has 10 top-10 finishes, including a victory in 2016. He has posted eight top-10 finishes in his last nine appearances, including six top-five’s.

Nigel Kinrade | NKP

2. Martin Truex Jr. +36

Right now, Martin Truex Jr. enters the second round as the championship favorite after winning at both Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Richmond, before placing seventh at the ROVAL. Just like Busch, he only needs solid finishes to continue through the next round of the playoffs.

Dover International Speedway – In 27 races, he has scored three wins and 15 top-10 finishes, including a trip to victory lane in May.

Talladega Superspeedway – In 29 races, he has only two top-five’s and eight top-10 finishes. Most notably, he has not posted a top-10 in his last seven appearances.

Kansas Speedway – In 22 races, he has scored a pair of victories and eight top-five finishes. Most recently, he has two wins and four top-five’s in his last five appearances.

Nigel Kinrade | NKP

3. Denny Hamlin +25

Despite a rocky three races with two finishes outside of the top-14, Denny Hamlin made his way into the second round of the playoffs. You can thank four wins and three stage victories for the bonus points to help out, but he will need to be stronger this time around if he wants to move forward.

Dover International Speedway – In 27 starts, he has four top-five’s and 11 top-10 finishes. Most recently, he has five top-10 finishes in his last seven appearances.

Talladega Superspeedway – In 27 starts, he has 10 top-10 finishes, including a victory in 2014. Most recently, he has three top-10 finishes in his last six appearances.

Kansas Speedway – In 22 starts, he has seven top-10 finishes, including a victory in 2012. Most recently, he has a pair of fifths and a pair of finishes outside of the top-12 in his last four appearances. 

Krysten Harrelson | NKP

4. Joey Logano +24

Three solid top-11 finishes allowed Joey Logano to move onto the second round of the playoffs, and the same consistency will be needed once again if he has any plans on defending the championship this year.

Dover International Speedway – In 21 starts, he has scored 12 top-10 finishes, with just four top-five’s. Most recently, he has finished third and seventh in his latest appearances.

Talladega Superspeedway – In 23 starts, he has three wins and 10 top-10 finishes. Most recently, he has finished in the top-five in his last four appearances, including a victory last year.

Kansas Speedway – In 20 starts, he has two wins and eight top-10 finishes. Most recently, he has two top-10’s in his last three appearances.

Rusty Jarrett | NKP

5. Kevin Harvick +23

A pair of top-five’s with no finishes worse than seventh in the first three races of the playoffs give Kevin Harvick some momentum heading into the second round. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver just now needs to keep things rolling through the next three weeks.

Dover International Speedway – In 37 starts, he has two wins and 18 top-10 finishes. Most recently, he has finished in the top-six in his last three appearances, including a victory last season.

Talladega Superspeedway – In 37 starts, he has scored 15 top-10 finishes, including a victory in 2010. Most recently, he has posted just one top-five in his last five appearances.

Kansas Speedway – In 27 starts, he has scored three wins and 14 top-10 finishes. Most recently, he has two wins, and five top-eight finishes in his last seven appearances.

Matthew T. Thacker | NKP

6. Chase Elliott +19

It appears Chase Elliott has made a statement in the playoffs, after coming back from a late-race mistake on a restart to win at the ROVAL in a dominating performance. Combined with a fourth at Las Vegas and recent success at the next three tracks, a lot of people have their eyes on the No. 9 being the strongest this round. 

Dover International Speedway – In seven starts, he has six top-five finishes, including winning the playoff October event last year.

Talladega Superspeedway – In seven starts, he has scored three top-five finishes, including a victory in April.

Kansas Speedway – In seven starts, he has scored three top-five finishes, including a victory last fall. 

Matthew T. Thacker | NKP

7. Brad Keselowski +19

Brad Keselowski was one of the most impressive drivers in the first round, scoring three top-five finishes. Currently flying under the radar following the performances from others, he could easily continue sneaking his way forward through consistency.

Dover International Speedway – In 19 starts, he has scored eight top-10 finishes, including a victory in 2012. Most recently, he has just two top-10 finishes in his last five appearances.

Talladega Superspeedway – In 21 starts, he has scored five victories and 11 top-10 finishes. Since winning in 2017, though, he has failed to post a top-10 finish in his last three appearances.

Kansas Speedway – In 19 starts, he has scored a pair of victories and 10 top-10’s. By the way, the most recent of those wins was May of this very year.

Matthew T. Thacker | NKP

8. Kyle Larson +1

It did not take a heroic performance like last season at the ROVAL, but Kyle Larson has once again made it to second round of the playoffs. Now he needs to not repeat the misfortunes of last year, and put together a solid string of races if he wants to move forward in 2019.

Dover International Speedway – In 11 starts, he has scored five top-five’s and eight top-10 finishes. Most recently, he finished third in May.

Talladega Superspeedway – In 11 starts, he has posted just two top-10 finishes, with the most recent being sixth in 2016.

Kansas Speedway – In 11 starts, he has scored three top-five’s and five top-10 finishes. Notably, he has scored a top-eight finish in his last three appearances.

Rusty Jarrett | NKP

9. Alex Bowman -1

Alex Bowman may not have made any friends through the first round, but he can still say that his playoff hopes are alive unlike others. Now he needs to hope those foes do not succeed in taking revenge, while continuing the performances like his runner-up at the ROVAL if he wants to move forward.

Dover International Speedway – In seven starts, he has posted just one top-five at Dover – a runner-up in May.

Talladega Superspeedway – In eight starts, he has posted two top-10’s, including a runner-up in May.

Kansas Speedway – In eight starts, he has posted three top-10’s, including a runner-up in May.

Nigel Kinrade | NKP

10. Ryan Blaney -2

Although Ryan Blaney posted a pair of top-10’s in the first round, a repeat of his 17th-place finish at Richmond Raceway would certainly not be warranted at this time if he wants to move forward.

Dover International Speedway – In seven starts, he has posted just two top-10 finishes, with the latest coming in the form of an eighth last season.

Talladega Superspeedway – In 10 starts, he has posted just two top-10 finishes, with the latest being ninth in 2016.

Kansas Speedway – In nine starts, he has posted three top-five’s and five top-10 finishes. Most recently, he just one top-10 (seventh) in his last three appearances.

Nigel Kinrade | NKP

11. William Byron -5

William Byron showed potential in the first round virtue of finishing seventh at Las Vegas and sixth at the ROVAL. However, the inconsistency that has led to just 11 top-10’s in 29 races this season needs to leave if he wants to become part of the championship conversation.

Dover International Speedway – In three starts, he has posted just one top-10 finish – eighth in May.

Talladega Superspeedway – In three starts, he has posted a best finish of 20th last October.

Kansas Speedway – In three starts, he has posted a best finish of 20th in May.

Nigel Kinrade | NKP

12. Clint Bowyer -6

After starting the playoffs on a sour note, Clint Bowyer kept his championship hopes alive with back-to-back top-eight finishes in the two races that followed. Now he needs to continue the momentum into the second round if he wants to move forward.

Dover International Speedway – In 27 starts, he has posted three top-five’s and 15 top-10 finishes. Most recently, he has posted a top-10 in his three of his last four appearances, including a runner-up last year.

Talladega Superspeedway – In 27 starts, he has posted 13 top-10 finishes, including a pair of victories. Most recently, he just one top-10 in his last six appearances.

Kansas Speedway – In 22 starts, he has posted three top-five’s and seven top-10 finishes. Most recently, he just one top-10 – fifth in May – in his last four appearances. 

All Images Courtesy of Nigel Kinrade Photography

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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Ashley McCubbin

Currently the Executive Editor for Popular Speed, Ashley McCubbin also runs Short Track Musings, while handling media relations for OSCAAR. Currently living in Bradford, Ontario, she spends her weekend at the local short tracks in the area taking photos.