By: Kenny Jimison
The “Round of 8” in the NASCAR Playoffs starts tomorrow at Kansas Speedway. Eight drivers will go head to head for three races, all battling for a spot in the “Championship 4” race at Phoenix Raceway on November 8.
The 2020 NASCAR Playoffs grid. (Image courtesy: CBS Sports)
Leading the charge is Kevin Harvick, who will go into Kansas 13 points ahead of second place Denny Hamlin. Brad Keselowski and Chase Elliott enter Sunday 3rd and 4th in points. Elliott has a 5-point lead over Joey Logano in 6th and 21 points over Kurt Busch in 8th.
While points leader Harvick has the best average finish at Kansas of all driver in the NASCAR Playoffs “Round of 8” at 9.59, Hamlin has managed to score a win at the last two Kansas races. Despite the two wins, Hamlin has a worse average finish at 14.50.
Denny Hamlin celebrating after his win at Kansas in July. (Image courtesy: Bleacher Report)
Although Harvick and Hamlin will enter this weekend as the favorites, do not count out any of the “Round of 8” drivers. Keselowski, Elliott, and Truex Jr. have all recently scored at least one win at Kansas since 2017. Alex Bowman has also shown to be consistent at 1.5 mile courses and could be a threat here or at Texas. In fact, the last race at Kansas not won by one of the “Round of 8” drivers dates back to Kyle Busch in spring of 2016.
Texas Motor Speedway
Following Kansas, the NASCAR Playoffs “Round of 8” will enter Texas Motor Speedway. Again, Harvick has the best average finish of the group at 10.23. Harvick also boasts the most starts at TMS with 35, while 4th place Elliott has only made nine starts but has the second best average finish at 11.11.
Kevin Harvick does a burnout after winning at Bristol Motor Speedway in September. (Image courtesy: Essentially Sports)
Looking at the trend of past races, Harvick will be the biggest threat to win at TMS. Harvick has managed to secure a win in three of the last six races at TMS with Hamlin being the only other “Round of 8” driver to win since Logano in 2014.
Closing out the NASCAR Playoffs “Round of 8” is Martinsville Speedway, which will likely be the biggest challenge to all drivers in this round. This 0.526-mile course is a major switch from the two 1.5-mile courses earlier in the round.
Hamlin will enter Martinsville with the highest average finish at 9.90 with five wins but has failed to secure a win since spring 2015. Hamlin will be a strong contender for the win, alongside Martin Truex Jr., who has an average finish of 16.83 despite winning the last two races.
Martin Truex Jr. managed to secure a win under the lights at Martinsville earlier this season. (Image courtesy: Bristol Motor Speedway)
Logano and Keselowski are the only other “Round of 8” drivers to win at Martinsville since Kurt Busch in spring 2014. Chase Elliott should also be considered a potential threat, finishing in the top 10 in four of the last five races, as well as Hendrick Motorsports usually putting up strong finishes at Martinsville.
Potential “Championship 4”
Looking at the NASCAR Playoffs “Round of 8”, Harvick, Hamlin, Elliott, and Truex Jr. place the biggest threat and could be the “Championship 4” drivers battling it out at Phoenix Raceway for the championship and this is why.
Harvick should prove to be consistent throughout the whole round as he has been all season. Hamlin poses a big threat at Kansas, largely due to his past two wins there. Even if Hamlin fails to secure a win at Kansas, he likely will have a shot at Martinsville and should prove to be consistent throughout the round.
Harvick will be the biggest threat and likely to win at TMS based on the previous six races there. As long as Elliott manages to run a clean race, he should also be able to have a strong running and be able to stay up in the points.
Chase Elliott after winning at Charlotte Motor Speedway earlier this season. (Image courtesy: Jayski)
Truex Jr. will go into Martinsville with momentum off the last two races being wins and will likely put on a strong showing. Alongside Truex, Elliott and Hamlin should have strong races here and could potentially even be in the running for wins.
Should Truex Jr. fail to secure a win at Martinsville, he may lose his shot at the “Championship 4” in favor of Keselowski, who should put up a strong “Round of 8”.