NASCAR’s postseason begins on Sunday at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, as 16 drivers begin their quest to win the NASCAR Cup Series championship at the South Point 400.
While the full field of drivers will compete in each of the playoff races, only those who have qualified for the postseason will earn points towards the championship standings.
Big Three Look to Continue Dominance in Playoffs
After the first three races, the top 12 drivers will remain alive in the playoffs. That number will be cut to eight after the sixth race and four drivers after the ninth race, with the highest finisher among those four at the Ford EcoBoost 400 on November 18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway earning the series championship.
Much of the playoff attention will be on NASCAR’s Big Three, as Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick come into the postseason with the points lead, with Martin Truex Jr. in third place. Those three drivers won a combined 17 races during the regular season, with the rest of the field combining for just nine victories.
For Truex, this year’s playoffs may take on added meaning. Not only is he coming in as the defending champion, but his team, Furniture Row Racing, has announced that it will be dissolving at the end of the current season.
“I think you could take all this one of two ways,” Truex said of the news about his team during a Media Day session at South Point Casino. “You could hang your head down and say, ‘this sucks’ and be mad at the world. Or you can look at each other and say, ‘let’s go do this.’ And I feel like that’s where we’re at.”
Keselowski Heats Up as Challenger to Watch
But while most of the attention might be on the Big Three, the hottest driver heading into the South Point 400 is undoubtedly Brad Keselowski, who won the final two races of the regular season to move into fourth place in the driver standings.
“It’s kind of sunk in that we won Darlington and Indy, and it means the world to me, it really does,” Keselowski told NASCAR.com. “Of course we want to climb to first, which sounds easy, but there’s a lot of great competition that won’t make it easy, nor should they.”
Barring some highly disappointing results, the top four drivers shouldn’t have any trouble getting through at least the first round of cuts. Still, everyone will want to get off to a hot start to make sure there’s no doubt about their advancement.
Heading into the race, Kevin Harvick is the obvious favorite. Harvick won at Las Vegas in March in dominating fashion, leading 214 of the 267 laps in the race. Bovada has made Harvick and Busch +270 co-favorites for the South Point 400, ahead of Truex (+450), Kyle Larson (+650), and Keselowski (+1000).
Those numbers largely mirror the overall NASCAR Cup Series championship odds. Harvick (+250) is a slight favorite over Busch (+300) and Truex (+450), with Larson (+800) and Keselowski (+800) sitting behind the drivers who have dominated for most of the season.