The playoff drivers are set now, but not without a little drama as there was almost a first time winner last weekend at Daytona. That would have knocked out someone who was trying to get in on points and catapulted a driver with a lower point total into the playoffs by virtue of a win. At any rate no such thing happened and the playoffs are set to start this weekend.
COOK OUT SOUTHERN 500
The first race in the round of sixteen will take place at the famed Darlington Raceway for the running of the Cook Out Southern 500. This will be the second race at Darlington this season with Martin Truex Jr. winning the earlier race. Can he repeat and guarantee himself a spot in the round of twelve?
Kyle Larson: I’m predicting Kyle wins this race and denies Martin the sweep this year. Kyle finished second to Martin this spring and has been the more consistent of these two drivers. Kyle is the odds on favorite to win the championship this year and if he can win the first race of the playoffs that will take a lot of pressure off of him and give him some more valuable playoff points.
Kevin Harvick: Kevin made it into the playoffs this season without a win and that won’t win you a championship. He also has ground to make up to ensure that he makes the round of twelve and this might be the track where he can break into the win column this season. In his last eleven starts at Darlington, Kevin has three wins, nine top five finishes and hasn’t finished outside the top ten.
Denny Hamlin: Another driver who is winless so far this season, Denny has also been pretty good at Darlington lately. In his last nine starts at this track he has won twice, and finished in the top five six times. He might have a better chance than Kevin of picking up his first win of the season as the Gibbs cars have shown more speed than the Stewart-Haas cars all year.
Kyle Busch: I think Kyle is a dark horse to win the championship this year, but don’t count him out. This team can start running consistently well at any time and this is the time they would like to do just that. Kyle hasn’t won here since the 2008 season, but in his last twelves starts he has finished in the top seven ten times. That’s a model of consistency right there.
William Byron: Another driver who could be considered a dark horse in the playoffs, William has finished in the top five in his last two starts at this track. As with any other driver in the playoffs, a win would be huge for this team. Will they be happy just making the round of twelve? Doubtful, once you make the playoffs you have to set goals to make each additional round without looking too far ahead.
Martin Truex Jr.: As mentioned earlier, Martin won the spring race here this year and has two wins in his career at Darlington. The issue is this team hasn’t been running as well as they are capable and I don’t know if that’s due to the fact there are no practice sessions at most of the races this year or what the problem is. If he can get back to running as well as he did earlier in the year they could give Larson a run for his money.
Joey Logano: Joey is still looking for his first career win at this track, but he has finished second here. Still he isn’t consistent enough at this track for me to consider using him this week even if I need to make up points in my league. I think there will be other opportunities to use Joey, it just isn’t this weekend.
Kurt Busch: Another driver looking for his first career win at Darlington, Kurt has finished in the top ten in five of his last seven starts here. Another driver many consider to be a long shot to win the championship this year. Can he surprise people? He’s going to have to win at least a couple of races to make that happen.
Brad Keselowski: I’m not sure what to think about this team seeing Brad is leaving at the end of the season. At least they are separating amicably. I’m sure the Roger Penske is happy for Brad and he would still like to win a championship no matter which one of his drivers does it. Brad has three top ten finishes in his last six starts including a win here in 2018.
Chase Elliott: The defending champion hasn’t run consistently well at this track through his career with only four top ten finishes in nine starts. They are going to have to step up their game somewhat if they want to repeat as champions. He should make it to the round of twelve easy enough and there’s a road course in that round, but once in the round of eight he’s going to have to start winning again.
DRIVER GROUP GAME FANTASY NASCAR PICKS FOR DARLINGTON RACEWAY
Driver Group Game Group A
- Kevin Harvick
Driver Group Game Group B
- Kurt Busch
- Christopher Bell
Driver Group Game Group C
- Chase Briscoe
MY TOP-5 OVERALL AT DARLINGTON RACEWAY
- Kyle Larson
- Kevin Harvick
- Martin Truex Jr.
- Kyle Busch
- Denny Hamlin
Dark Horse: Erik Jones
Stay Away From: Michael McDowell
Big 18: Kurt Busch