Another round of the NASCAR playoffs comes and goes and now just eight drivers remain to vie for the crown. AJ Allmendinger claimed victory last week at Charlotte meaning no new drivers advanced with a win. Las Vegas, Homestead, and Martinsville remain on the schedule before NASCAR narrows down the field to just four drivers competing for the championship at Phoenix. Let’s break down the playoff picture as NASCAR kicks off the third round of the playoffs with the South Point 400.
The eight drivers who remain? William Byron, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson, Chris Buescher, Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick, and Ryan Blaney. Each will hope to win over the next three race and punch their ticket to Phoenix.
Playoff Picture Headed Into South Point 400
- William Byron – 20 Points Above Cut Line
- Martin Truex Jr. – 15 Points Above Cut Line
- Denny Hamlin – 11 Points Above Cut Line
- Kyle Larson – 3 Points Above Cut Line
- Chris Buescher – 3 Points Below Cut Line
- Christopher Bell – 8 Points Below Cut Line
- Tyler Reddick – 8 Points Below Cut Line
- Ryan Blaney – 10 Points Below Cut Line
With the field narrowed down to just eight, the results for this round end up nearly impossible to predict. However, it’s my job to at least attempt to guess what the standings will be after round three so I will try.
Ryan Blaney currently sits last in the standings and Penske has possessed less speed than any of the teams remaining. There are no plate tracks left which is where Blaney notched his win in round two to advance. I think his playoff hunt ends at Martinsville.
The other driver who struggled with speed in the playoffs? Martin Truex Jr. The former champ continued to look for results in round two but in spite of slightly better luck than round one, pace remained absent. I’ve seen nothing from the #19 squad to suggest that Truex can maintain his 15-point lead on the cutline. MTJ’s playoff hunt also ends at Martinsville.
From those two things get even more difficult to predict. However, I’ll say that Tyler Reddick advances thanks to his prowess at Homestead. Byron and Hamlin also look to possess the pace to advance. I think Larson joins as the fourth driver with Buescher and Bell eliminated at Martinsville.
Las Vegas produced a solid race earlier this season and I’d expect more of the same when NASCAR visits for the second time.
Hendrick Motorsports finished 1-2-3 in the spring race so expect similar speed out of Chevrolet’s top team. William Byron claimed the victory in that finish and given his status as the hottest driver in the series right now, don’t be surprised to see him repeat. The driver of the #24 seems destined to compete for the title at Phoenix in three weeks.
Looking for the sweep. 🧹 pic.twitter.com/FrJxdiXYb9— Hendrick Motorsports (@TeamHendrick) October 12, 2023
His teammate Kyle Larson finished runner-up in that race and likely factors in as a possible winner on Sunday as well.
Another driver I’m keeping an eye on is Tyler Reddick. Reddick didn’t have a great finish at Vegas in the spring but his teammate Bubba Wallace finished top five. Don’t be surprised if Reddick shows up with some additional speed from those notes.
However, I still think Byron is the best bet for notching a ticket to Victory Lane and the final round of the playoffs come Sunday. I like the driver of the #24 to win the South Point 400.
Check out the schedule below so you don’t miss any on-track action.
NASCAR Xfinity Series Qualifying – 6:05 p.m. CT on USA
NASCAR Cup Series Qualifying – 12:20 p.m. CT on USA
Alsco Uniforms 302 (NASCAR Xfinity Series) – 2:30 p.m. CT on USA
South Point 400 (NASCAR Cup Series) – 1:30 p.m. CT on NBC