This coming weekend, NASCAR will head to Daytona for the final race of the regular season. Once that race has been run and the calendar turns over into September, drivers can start to think seriously about the playoffs. In all, there will be 10 more races to decide the champion, with the final race of the year coming on November 1 at Martinsville Speedway. It has been a long and trying season for all the drivers, with doubleheaders and midweek races highlighting a season that required NASCAR to adapt quickly, which they did really well. The question now is about which driver will finish atop the standings once all is said and done. The final 16 will be officially set this weekend, so let’s take a look at some of the favorites and dark horses to win it all so you can wager on their NASCAR odds.
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Early Predictions, Favorites & Dark Horses
Harvick or Hamlin?
While we may yet see another driver come from behind the pack and take the championship, the smart money would likely be on either Kevin Harvick (+200) or Denny Hamlin (+300) winning it all. After all, these two drivers have accounted for 13 wins out of the 25 races this season, including a split in the doubleheader at Dover last weekend.
Let’s start by taking a look at Kevin Harvick and what he has done this season. He leads the way with 7 wins, but it is his astonishing level of consistency that has him on top. Besides those wins, he also has 21 top 10 finishes from 25 races. If he continues to put together that sort of pace through the playoffs, he will win it all. Harvick is on a tear at the moment, winning 3 of the 6 races in the month of August, so he is getting hot at the right time.
If anyone is going to catch Harvick, you would need to take a serious look at Denny Hamlin. His win in the first race at Dover last week made it #6 on the season for him. He has 16 top 10’s compared to the 21 that Harvick has, but 14 of those were top 5 finishes, so this is a guy that is routinely among the leaders.
Who are the Dark Horses?
Let’s imagine a scenario where Harvick and/or Hamlin suddenly go cold in the playoffs. Which drivers might be able to take advantage of that and make a run? There are a couple of drivers that you could certainly make a case for here. Outside of the top 2, the only other drivers to pick up wins in the month of August are Brad Keselowski (+700) and Chase Elliot (+650). Of those two, I think it is Elliott who is the better equipped to take a serious run at the championship.
Elliott has 2 wins on the season, but both have come recently, which suggests that he might just be rounding into form at the right time for a playoff run. Keselowski has 1 more win that Elliott and has been in the top 10 more often, but I still feel that it is Chase who is the more likely of the two to be the dark horse winner. Still, I think it will be Kevin Harvick who ultimately ends up winning his second title.
I have read enough, I need to place my bet now. What to do?
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