It’s been a weird season so far, with COVID, iRacing, double headers, mid-week races and some driver controversies. But now, it’s finally time for the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, and boy is it going to be good!
Kevin Harvick has dominated the whole season along with Denny Hamlin, together scoring half the wins of the regular season. So going in to the playoffs, these two obviously have the upper hand, starting out with more points than anybody else. Looking at the different rounds though, I’m not so sure it’s going to be just a walk in the park into the Final 4 for both of them.
Round of 16 is compiled of three short tracks, if you want to call Darlington a short track, but It sort of drives like one. Then the Round of 12 is Las Vegas, Talladega and the ROVAL at Charlotte. This is probably going to be the toughest round for most of the playoff drivers, mainly because Talladega is a free-for-all, and not everyone is great at road courses. So to get through this one, you are going to have to be outperforming your expectations every single race. The Round of 8 is two 1.5 mile tracks, with Martinsville as the cut-off for the Final 4, and that is going to be one heck of a race. Then the final is a Phoenix, where I’m expecting Harvick to win the Championship, should he make the cut for the Final 4.
Starting off though with the Round of 16, there are a few key points when looking at the field. Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin is one, with their domination and whether that will continue or not. He cut-off races throughout these playoffs being Bristol, the ROVAL and Martinsville makes for some really tricky situations for the drivers battling for those final spots at each cut. Will Matt DiBenedetto be able to score his first playoff points, and will he even be able to make it through the first round? What will Austin Dillon and Cole Custer be able to accomplish? These were the two drivers that got in solely based on their wins, so will they be able to back that up, or will they fall out straight away.
Then there is Kyle Busch. The reigning champion who is yet to win a race in 2020. He is going into these playoffs with three total playoff points. One from a stage win, and two from finishing the regular season in 9th place. Will he even be able to make it through the first round? I’m fairly confident he will, specially considering the speed he showed earlier this year at Darlington. He is always a contender at Bristol as well, so even if he doesn’t get his first win of the season in this round, I expect him to rack up enough points to go through.
My predictions for the Round of 16 and the drivers who will not advance are: Aric Almirola, Matt DiBenedetto, William Byron and Cole Custer. As much as I want DiBenedetto to go through, I just don’t think he will be able to pull it off. And putting Dillon through to the Round of 12? Well, that probably comes from him being my favourite driver, and me wishing him more luck and points than he will probably get.