NASCAR 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup Power Rankings: Eliminator Round: The first two rounds of the Chase for the Sprint Cup are in the books, and on the heels of Brad Keselowski’s season-saving win at Talladega, the Eliminator Round is set to begin this weekend at Martinsville Speedway. Eight drivers remain eligible for the title, but while Keselowski remains in the hunt, defending champ Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch are among the big names that saw their championship dreams end in the Contender Round. Over the next three weeks, the final four drivers that will compete for the title at Homestead in the season finale will be decided, and with that in mind, here is how I see the eight remaining drivers stacking up.
- Joey Logano: Plain and simple, Logano has been by far the best driver during the Chase. His 4.2 average finish in the first six playoff races is three spots better than any other driver, and his five top-five finishes are two more than any other driver. Logano has also picked up two more wins during the Chase, and he could easily advance to the final race with a win or on points.
- Kevin Harvick: His 7.2 average finish through the first two rounds of the playoffs is the second best of any driver, and his 631 laps led are 391 more than any other driver. Harvick’s ability to constantly run up front and contend for wins gives him an equally solid chance of qualifying for the finale with a win or by points. Harvick also has an ace in the hole with Phoenix on the schedule in a few weeks. He has clobbered the field in the last two races at the track.
- Brad Keselowski: He saved his season with a dramatic victory at Talladega, but now that Keselowski is still in the playoffs, he immediately becomes a threat to win the title. After all, he leads all drivers with six victories in 2014, and he is one of only two drivers to win in each of the first two rounds of the Chase. Keselowski has shown he can win at any track, making him one of the frontrunners to punch his ticket to the final race.
- Jeff Gordon: Thanks to a win and two second-place finishes in the first two rounds of the Chase, Gordon has been able to coats into the Eliminator Round with a conservative approach. He may have to up his game a bit to ensure he reaches the final race, but Gordon happens to excel at all three tracks in the next round, especially Martinsville where he is an eight-time winner.
- Denny Hamlin: Hamlin saved his best stretch of racing for the playoffs, but he hasn’t exactly been dominant in reaching the Eliminator Round. That being said, the next three races stack up well for Hamlin. He is a former winner at Martinsville, Texas and Phoenix, and he happens to be a four-time winner at Martinsville. Hamlin has a realistic shot of picking up a win and snatching a spot in the final race.
- Matt Kenseth: A clutch second-place finish at Talladega ensured Kenseth a spot in the Eliminator Round, but his playoff run could be coming to an end unless he can find a way to reach victory lane. His best shot figures to be at Texas where he has run very well in the past, but he has been mediocre historically at Martinsville and Phoenix. Realistically, Kenseth needs a surprise win or some help to reach the final race.
- Ryan Newman: Newman has been the quiet contender throughout the playoffs, compiling a 9.8 average finish through the first six races of the Chase and notching four top-10s along the way. On the flip side, Newman has managed just three top-five finishes all year so his chances of advancing to the final race via a win are next to impossible. If he can remain consistent, Newman will still need a lot of help from the frontrunners.
- Carl Edwards: He managed to sneak his way into the Eliminator Round with just two top-10s through the first two rounds of the Chase, but Edwards’ playoff run is likely coming to an end. He has lacked consistency all year, and unless he pulls a win out of his hat, it’s hard to see him outperforming the frontrunners for a spot in the final race.
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