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2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Predictions: Round of 12 Power Rankings

2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Predictions: Round of 12 Power Rankings: The first round of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs is in the books, and the field of 16 has been trimmed by four as the Round of 12 is set to begin this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Ryan Newman, Austin Dillon, Kasey Kahne and Kurt Busch have already been eliminated from title contention, and with just seven races remaining in the season, it is time to see how the remaining drivers stack up.

2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Predictions: Round of 12 Power Rankings

 

  1. Martin Truex Jr.: Truex has been the most dominant driver all year, and he picked up another win during the Round 16. He now has a 51-point edge on ninth-place Ryan Blaney, so he will have to have at least two disastrous races to no advance to the next round. More importantly, he has a 42-point edge on fifth-place Jimmie Johnson, making him practically a lock to be one of the final four competing for the title at Homestead.

 

  1. Kyle Busch: He has quickly become the hottest driver in the series, winning at New Hampshire and Dover to close out the opening round of the playoffs. Busch now has a 33-point edge on ninth place and 24-point edge on fifth-place, so his prospects of advancing to the next round and all the way to Homestead are promising.

 

  1. Kyle Larson: Larson sits third in the standings, and while he doesn’t have quite the edge that Truex and Busch do, he should still be able to reach the next round with relative ease. Larson is also in pretty good shape to reach the championship race, and if he gets that far, he could be tough to stop. Larson might be the best in the series right now at Homestead.

 

  1. Jimmie Johnson: The defending champ has been lacking elite speed most of the year, but he had arguably the worst season of his career last year and still found a way to win the title with a couple of timely victories. Johnson finished third last weekend at Dover, and with some of his best tracks coming up, he is a dangerous player in the title fight.

 

  1. Brad Keselowski: When he isn’t busy complaining about the Toyota teams and begging NASCAR for a handout, Keselowski is usually competing for Top 5s. His consistency and his 20 playoff points have him positioned for a deep run.

 

  1. Chase Elliott: I’m not sure what Elliott and the No. 24 bunch have found, but he is suddenly looking like the top sleeper to compete for the title. He led 42 laps in the playoff opener at Chicagoland and led the most laps last weekend at Dover. If the trend continues, Elliott could find himself in victory lane and in the championship finale in the coming weeks.

 

  1. Kevin Harvick: Harvick has been so fast the last couple of years that he could recover from a bad race by picking up a win. He hasn’t shown that same type of speed on a regular basis in 2017, but he is more than capable of stringing together a bunch of Top 5s and putting himself in position to race for the title.

 

  1. Denny Hamlin: Hamlin might be the ultimate wild-card in this title fight. He has run hot and cold throughout the season, but he has some great tracks coming up, and he has been known to step up his performance in the playoffs. I think his lack of consistency will hurt him in the long run, but Hamlin is probably the last driver in my rankings that I wouldn’t be totally shocked to see claim the title.

 

  1. Matt Kenseth: He hasn’t been able to find a rhythm all year, but there are brief stretches when Kenseth looks like a Top 5-caliber driver. The veteran is a former champion, and he won’t beat himself. However, he probably needs to win a race or two to stay alive in the playoffs, and I just don’t think he has the consistent high-end speed to make a legitimate title run.

 

  1. Ryan Blaney: Blaney has a puncher’s chance simply because he has shown the ability to compete for wins at multiple tracks. On the flip side, he has also been one of the more inconsistent performers among the remaining playoff drivers, and he has had a lot of mechanical issues this year. Without a lot of playoff points to fall back on, a slip up at this point in the year will doom him.

 

  1. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: In terms of week-to-week performance, Stenhouse is easily the worst of the 12 remaining title contenders. However, he is a stud at the restrictor-plate tracks, and he has won two of the three plate races this year. With Talladega looming in the Round of 12, Stenhouse could win and advance. However, the Cinderella run would end in the Round of 8.

 

  1. Jamie McMurray: He has been the model of consistency all year, but the consistency will only carry him so far. McMurray barely made it into the Round of 12, and he is starting this round with the fewest playoff points of the remaining drivers. I don’t see how he advances any further.

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