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LATE PREDICTIONS FOR UNPREDICTABLE NASCAR PLAYOFFS

The first two rounds of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series 2018 playoffs were full of surprises. Surprises or no, eight drivers remain in the game for the championship this season, as the series goes on lap three on Sunday at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway

Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin in the first round? Okay, sure, this season was a fight for both riders. Nevertheless, I expected both to survive the first round. Maybe it was just hard for me to avoid the fact that these two riders are traditionally top riders in top teams. And Kyle Busch certainly will not have to fight Joe Gibb’s racing gear this year. Hamlin has. Also, it’s hard to count a seven-time champion, with this record-binding title coming just a few seasons, even after a year and a half a fight.

Granted, I had Hamlin and Johnson out after the knockout stages. I was close, I think.

I did not expect that half of the last eight will come from the Stewart-Haas Racing Camp. Boy, Aric Almirola sure was a surprise in the second round. No, I’m not surprised he won in DerSHR equipment, and he’s almost won the Daytona 500 in February. I think I just did not expect him to be one of only two race winners on lap two, for some reason. I do not really know why.

Sure, Stewart-Haas was strong this season. After all, en route to the playoffs, Almirola was the only one of his three drivers without a win in the regular season. The SHR threesome of Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch combined for 10 wins in the 26-race regular season, so I think I should not be surprised. I think it’s just hard for me to imagine a team claiming half of the eight existing playoffs. I think I do not have to imagine it, but me?

Then there’s Chase Elliott, not Brad Keselowski. After Keselowski finished the regular season with wins in the last two and the playoffs started with a third win in a row, I was sure that he was THE driver to challenge the “Big 3” of Harvick, Busch and Martin Truex Jr. He’s been freaking out in the race since then. Did not he do that? Of course he has; he did not even make it out of the round of 16. Now Elliott wants to become serious competition for the above mentioned “Big 3”.

And when I talk about the Big 3, I’m not sure about those three guys, or at least not Truex, anyway. He seems to have lost this shine. Maybe finishing Furniture Row Racing at the end of the season is a distraction. That is very understandable. I just thought these guys were the guys to overcome that kind of distraction. Maybe not. Well, at least they are still in there. That’s more than what half of the 16 teams that started the 2018 play-offs can say now. So, there it is.

In fact, the “Big 3” as a group lately is not at the level of their former dominance. But I think they’ll all be among the four competing for the title next month at Homestead-Miami Speedway. At least, with the reset, they’re back up to the top-three headline in the round-three opener on Sunday in Martinsville, thanks to the playoff points they accumulated during the seasons when they staged stages and races on a seemingly weekly basis Base wo

I’m going to race in the top four of the standings with the drivers on Sunday to be the four in the championship bout in Homestead. It seems I’m going to take the easy way out if I just say that, right? But think about it. We’re talking about “Big 3” and Elliott, the rider who has won two of the last three and three of the last 11 races.

For the championship – and here I go on a limb – Elliott. I feel the need to limb somewhere in these predictions, and there you have it. After all of this “what has been done for me lately?” World and Elliott has definitely done lately. In fact, the “Big 3” as a group lately is not at the level of their former dominance. But I think they’ll all be among the four competing for the title next month at Homestead-Miami Speedway. At least, with the reset, they’re back up to the top-three headline in the round-three opener on Sunday in Martinsville, thanks to the playoff points they accumulated during the seasons when they staged stages and races on a seemingly weekly basis Base won

I’m going to race in the top four of the standings with the drivers on Sunday to be the four in the championship bout in Homestead. It seems I’m going to take the easy way out if I just say that, right? But think about it. We’re talking about “Big 3” and Elliott, the rider who has won two of the last three and three of the last 11 races.

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