The playoff field has been set after a rain delayed finally of the regular season on Monday. NASCAR didn’t need this to happen as they are losing fans at an alarming rate and to have one of the biggest races of the season get postponed by rain was a disaster. Most people attending race weekends have an itinerary that sends them home after the race on Sunday or early Monday morning. A lot of fans have to be back to work on Monday or Tuesday and can’t attend a race that has been postponed. This could have a huge affect with people buying tickets to the final race of the regular season next year.
SOUTH POINT 400
Kyle Busch won the regular season championship and he and Kevin Harvick will enter the playoffs in a virtual tie with the same amount of playoff points which is fifty for each. Martin Truex Jr. will start fifteen points behind those two drivers and Brad Keselowski is seeded fourth already thirty-one points behind the leaders. Points are reset after each three race stage for those advancing, so you can see the advantage the top two drivers have in their quest to make the championship race in Miami at the end of the year.
So, the playoff start at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway with the running of the South Point 400. This is the first of many intermediate tracks on the circuit that have all been won by drivers in a Ford or a Toyota this season. I see this trend continuing through the playoffs unless someone in a Chevrolet wins on fuel mileage or some great pit strategy that plays out well for them. Drives who are in a Chevy that I think have a chance of winning on one of these tracks are Chase Elliott or Kyle Larson.
Kevin Harvick: I am picking Kevin to win the first race of the playoffs and get himself qualified for the second round right away and gain at least another five playoff points going forward. He has won two of the last four races here while leading over 350-laps in those two wins. This team has been fast every week with no exceptions. The only thing that can stop them this week if trouble on pit road which has plagued them quite a bit this season.
Kyle Busch: Not to be outdone by too much, Kyle has three top five finishes in his last five starts here including a runner-up finish this spring. He considers this his hometown track and hasn’t won here since the 2009 season. Kyle knows how important it is to gain more playoff points to get him through every round as he sets his sights on Miami in November.
Martin Truex Jr.: Martin won the race at Las Vegas last year and has three top five finishes in his last four starts here. This is where Martin made his bread and butter when he won the championship last season. He has quite a few playoff points which should help him get through the first round, but after that one bad race could cost him. I look for him to contend here once again this week.
Brad Keselowski: Brad is on a roll with back to back wins in the two races leading up to the playoffs. He has finished in the top seven in his last six starts at Las Vegas including two wins in that stretch. It means a lot to know you have the speed and handling to win races at this point of the season, so this team will come into the playoffs with a lot of confidence. I look for them to run towards the front of the field again this week.
Ryan Blaney: Ryan has had a fast car for most of the year and sat on the pole for the spring race here and finished fifth. He has only run four races here and has finished in the top seven in his last three. Ryan could be one of the surprises of the playoffs because he has been so close to winning races all year and if those wins start coming now he will have a shot to win the championship this year.
Joey Logano: The third Penske driver to be mentioned by me, Joey has five straight top ten finishes here with three of those starts coming on the front row. In ten starts at this track Joey has never finished worse than twenty-third and has only failed to complete one lap in those ten races. Anyone who can stay on the lead lap in nine out of ten races anywhere and only lose one lap has to be on your radar.
Erik Jones: Erik has really come on in the second half of the season after winning at Daytona in July. This is his type of track and in his two starts at Las Vegas he has come away with a fifteenth and an eighth place finish. I think he improves on those numbers this week and will finish somewhere in the top ten again and could possibly come away with another top five finish. He is another driver who could be a surprise during the next ten races.
Kyle Larson: Kyle has finished in the top three in his last two starts at this track. Everyone thought he would run up high all year long and he has surprised us by running down low more often than not. I think learning to do that earlier this season can only help him in the playoffs when he will need to search around the track to find speed to keep himself in the mix throughout the races.
Aric Almirola: He has come close a number of times only to have something unfortunate happen to him late in races. Yet, he has shown that he has the same speed as the rest of the Stewart-Haas drivers and the intermediate tracks are where he is usually at his best. He has only finished in the top ten here once in ten starts, but that finish came this spring. I am throwing out those stats and picking him as my dark horse this week.
Jimmie Johnson: Jimmie hasn’t shown us much of anything this season. He hasn’t won a race or even a stage as we enter the playoffs and that puts his at a major disadvantage. Can he and Chad Knaus find that magic once again and can they find enough to get them to Miami? Doubtful in my opinion. However, he has only finished outside of the top sixteen once in his last nine starts here. He has led laps in six of his last seven starts here and won three straight at this track from 2005-2007. He needs to have a great finish right off the bat if he has any inkling of making noise this year.
DRIVER GROUP GAME FANTASY NASCAR PICKS FOR LAS VEGAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY
Driver Group Game Group A
- Kevin Harvick
- Brad Keselowski
Driver Group Game Group B
- Ryan Blaney
- Erik Jones
- Aric Almirola
- Austin Dillon
Driver Group Game Group C
- Alex Bowman
- Chris Buescher
MY TOP-5 OVERALL AT LAS VEGAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY
- Kevin Harvick
- Brad Keselowski
- Kyle Busch
- Martin Truex Jr.
- Ryan Blaney
Dark Horse: Aric Almirola
Stay Away From: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Big 18: Ryan Blaney