|Kevin Harvick is the 5/2 favorite to win Sprint Cup.|
NASCAR's version of the playoffs has been whittled down the field of 16 down to just eight drivers after six races and we can call the Round of 8 that starts Sunday at Martinsville Speedway the semifinals of sorts. The eight eligible drivers to win the Sprint Cup will have three races to impress the most before the championship field of four drivers is set for an all-or-nothing season finale No. 20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The best way to advance for the eight drivers is to simply win one of the next three races, or else accumulate the most points. If there are three different Chase drivers to win each of the races, only one driver will advance on points. Two of the heavyweight contenders to win it all, Martin Truex Jr and Brad Keselowski, both had engine failures at Talladega last week and have been eliminated.
Let's take a look at the eight Sprint Cup contenders, their updated Championship odds from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook and how they might fare this week at Martinsville and then at Texas and Phoenix the following two weeks.
Joey Logano 6/1: He should have nightmares recurring from last season when his championship hopes were dashed immediately at Martinsville when Matt Kenseth repaid a debt and wrecked him while leading. Logano had won three straight races and looked like the favorite to win it all up until that point. His only win between the three tracks came at Texas. I don't like him to advance.
Jimmie Johnson 4/1: No driver has more Chase wins than the six-time champ. This round also suits his likes well: eight wins at Martinsville, six at Texas and four at Phoenix. Look for his best chance at winning to happen at Texas just because the last race on a high-banked 1.5-mile track was Charlotte (Oct. 9) where he led 155 laps and won. I've got him advancing.
Kevin Harvick 5/2: You have to make him the top favorite to advance just because he's won eight times at Phoenix, including six of the last eight there. He's never won at Texas and has a 2011 win at Martinsville. It would be a surprise if he wasn't racing for the title at Homestead.
Matt Kenseth 7/1: Martinsville has never been his strongest track (0 wins), but he was runner-up in 2013, sixth in both 2014 races and fourth last spring. He's got the luxury of having great Gibbs set-ups there now, like Hamlin and Kyle. At Texas, he's one of the elite with two wins and a 9.5 average finish in 27 starts. He's also won at Phoenix, a place where I think he'll be battling teammate Carl Edwards for a chance to advance. My best is guess is that he won't advance.
Carl Edwards 7/1: He's never won at Martinsville in 24 starts, but he does have three Texas wins and two Phoenix wins. In the March Phoenix race he led 65 laps, but was runner-up to Harvick. I believe his ultimate fate will come down to Phoenix and possibly needing a win to advance.