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Categorized | NASCAR

2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Preseason Predictions

2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Preseason Predictions: The 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is just a few weeks away from beginning, and while there are sure to be plenty of surprises between the green flag at Daytona and the checkered flag at Homestead, I’m already going to fast forward to the end of the year and do some predictions for the upcoming season.

In NASCAR’s current playoff format, a 16-driver field is reduced to just four drivers for the championship finale at Homestead. I’ll be giving my predictions for the drivers who will be a part of the Championship 4, along with my picks for the 2018 series champion and 2018 Rookie of the Year.

Check out my picks.

2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Preseason Predictions

Championship 4 Driver Predictions:

Sustaining dominance in NASCAR can be difficult, but I don’t think the championship window has closed on Martin Truex Jr. just yet. He led more than 1,800 laps and won four times in 2016, and last year he led more than 2,200 laps and won eight times on his way to the series crown. He has been particularly dominant at the 1.5-mile ovals, which gives him a nice advantage come playoff time with the way the schedule sets up. Even if Truex’s performance slips a bit or the competition closes the gap, he’ll still be good enough to compete for the title. I think Truex is the safest bet to reach the championship race.

He was the runner-up last year, and Kyle Busch has been in the championship race in each of the last three seasons, winning the 2015 crown. What has been particularly impressive about Busch is his sudden consistency. In addition to winning at least four races in each of the past three seasons, he posted a career-high 25 Top 10s in 2016 and 22 Top 10s last year. His ability to win races and always run near the front gives him multiple options for advancing through the playoffs, and I expect Busch to be back in the title race in 2018.

A trip to the championship race seemed inevitable for Kyle Larson last year, but engine issues during the playoffs brought a shocking end to his title run. On the plus side, he emerged as a legitimate star in the sport, winning four times and leading the third-most laps of any driver. I expect the speed to still be there in 2018, and the racing gods owe him one. Larson will reach the championship race.

He took a big step forward in 2017, and Chase Elliott was a weekly top-five driver during last year’s playoff run, leading laps and contending for wins with regularity. I expect him to continue his upward trend in his third full-time season, and his prowess at the flat tracks should prove particularly useful with Martinsville and Phoenix among the final three races leading up to the finale at Homestead. Elliott’s best season yet will end with a spot in the championship race.

2018 Champion Prediction:

He will probably always be known as an all-or-nothing driver, but Kyle Busch has been remarkably consistent the last few seasons. He still wins plenty of races and leads tons of lap, but Busch is also piling up 20-plus Top 10s with regularity. That blend of consistency and elite upside makes him a perennial title threat. In fact, he could easily be a three-time defending series champion if not for ill-timed cautions in the championship race in 2016 and 2017. I think luck will be on Busch’s side in 2018, and he will add a second title to his 2015 crown.

Rookie of the Year Prediction:

The Cup Series is as loaded with young talent as it has ever been, and William Byron could be the next star. He can’t even buy a beer yet, but don’t expect the lack of experience to stop him from winning Rookie of the Year honors. Two years ago, he won seven races as a rookie in the Truck Series. Last year, he won four races and the XFINITY Series title as a rookie in that series. He drives well beyond his years, maximizing his results when he has an average car and delivering wins and Top 5s when he hits the setup. Driving for a powerhouse team like Hendrick Motorsports should also give him an edge over his toughest competition, Darrell Wallace Jr., and I expect Byron to win Rookie of the Year honors with relative ease

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