Thursday, September 1, 2022

NASCAR Playoffs Predictions

 The green flag to the 2022 NASCAR Playoffs drops on Sunday at Darlington Raceway with 11 of the 16 qualified drivers having a chance to win their first Championship. That’s the thing that struck me first. We’ve got a lot of new faces that have been elevated in the sport with a big assist from the NextGen car and I love it. 

There are five first-time winners this season and they’re all in the playoffs. There are 16 winners overall during the first 26 races with the only one missing the playoffs being Kurt Busch who is suffering from concussion symptoms. It’s the most wide-open playoffs I’ve seen yet in all my years of following NASCAR. Just like the weekly races, anyone can win this thing.

We’re going to have 10 weeks of awesomeness with four drivers being eliminated from championship contention every three races until only four are standing for the Season Finale 500 at Phoenix Raceway on March 6.

Here’s a look at all the candidates to win in order of odds posted by Caesars Palace sportsbooks.


Chase Elliott (5/2) stands alone to win the title. The 2020 Champion leads the series with four wins, 17 top10s, and is tied with two others with 10 top-fives. He’s shown to be good at all styles of tracks and doesn’t even have a road course win yet this season. Because he’s been great at Dover and Nashville, I can correlate that to win at Bristol and Phoenix. And because he won at his hometown track of Atlanta for the first time, I can suggest Las Vegas, Kansas, Texas, and Homestead might be possibilities for wins as well. His calm demeanor is his secret and it translates to running great races when he had only a good car. It’s going to take someone really special to beat Elliott in this format.

The 2021 Champion Kyle Larson (6/1) won 10 races last season. Then NASCAR moves to the NextGen car and now he no longer has an edge. He won at Fontana in Week 2 and Watkins Glen in Week 25, but he also had 10 top-fives showing that perhaps his struggles were more amplified by myself than reality. Would I bet him to win at these prices? No way. The only races I could see him doing well at are Bristol and Phoenix.

Ross Chastain (6/1) is the guy to watch. I’d hope to find better odds than what Caesars is offering but he’s got all the attributes of a cham[pion and it’s been a thrill to watch. After the Atlanta race where he was runner-up in Week 19, he had 10 top-fives to lead the series. He comes into the playoffs still with only 10 top-fives. He had some of his mojo taken away by veteran drivers trying to teach the young whipper-snapper a lesson. But he’s got to get back to being who is which is an aggressive driver. He’s one of my favorites to win it all.

Ross Chastain has failed to see a Top 10 result in seven straight races. (Getty)

Denny Hamlin (8/1) is the sentimental choice to win it all because he’s been so close in the past but never won it. It absolutely kills him inside that he hasn’t won and now he has to sit by all this week and throughout the playoffs to answer questions about how bad it hurts not to win one. “What would it mean to you to win the championship?” But this season hasn’t been great. The new car has made things tougher on him, especially at tracks he’s dominated in the past such as Darlington and Martinsville which are both in the playoffs. His win at Charlotte says he can win at Las Vegas, Texas, and Kansas. His Richmond win shows his team can do some differing pit strategies and try things outside the box to steal a win. His Pocono win taken away by NASCAR’s post-race inspection shows that his team is trying everything they can to find speed, and I like that. The unwritten NASCAR rule is that if you aren’t cheating, you’re not trying.

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