Countdown to the Playoffs

Recently we had a look at the 10 darkest horses to win a Cup race in 2021 after Kurt Busch connected for 3rd on the list with a 33/1 chances win in the Quake State 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. If we had actually waited one week, we might have showcased the longest chances yet for the season.

Aric Almirola was not on many radar screens heading into New Hampshire Motor Speedway other than as a colleague to Kevin Harvick. Stewart-Haas Racing has actually been on a mild uptick and we believed that would make the 3 colleagues run much better – however we did not anticipate any sort of supremacy. Almirola not just won the race, however he did so in persuading style.

Along with Busch the week in the past, they ended up being the 12th and 13th special winners in 2021 – and they kept alive the discussion about what will occur if NASCAR strikes 16 or more winners and overfills the playoff container. It likewise got us considering who might be some dark horses – or a minimum of, brand-new special chauffeurs – to enjoy in the coming weeks now that the majority of the favorites currently have wins to their credit.

Watkins Glen International

Recently Denny Hamlin had 200 points contributed to his Champion Chances and presently sits at +900. That was due to the fact that among his last excellent chances reoccured to win a routine season race on the flat 1-mile oval in New Hampshire. We concur that was the track on which we anticipated him to shine biggest in the last weekends of the routine season, however he is not yet done. He can win on any of the next 4 tracks, however we will be paying specific attention to him at the Glen where he won in 2016 and scored 2 top-fives in the last 3 races.

Daniel Suarez is not the very first motorist who enters your mind when one considers roadway courses, however that belongs to what makes him an engaging dark horse. Suarez swept the leading 5 at Watkins Glen in his very first 2 starts there. Approved he remained in a few of the very best devices in the field at Joe Gibbs Racing, however his cars and truck control on the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Track this spring in the Trackhouse No. 99 captured our attention.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Roadway Course

Don’t sleep on Ross Chastain on either of the next 2 roadway courses due to the fact that he will get in Watkins Glen with 3 successive top-10 surfaces – and we believe he will leave there with 4. His seventh-place surface at Sonoma Raceway was rather questionable after he did not get a charge for shorting the course, however he likewise completed that well a number of weeks later on at Roadway America. His finest roadway course effort this year was a 4th on the Circuit of the Americas.

Exists something unique about roadway and oval courses? They don’t have rather the exact same originality as a street course, however they absolutely have a various character than irreversible roadway courses. Ryan Preece has actually been strong on the hybrids with outcomes of 23rd of much better in his last 4 efforts at Daytona and Charlotte. Similarly essential, he completed ninth at Daytona this February. He hasn’t remained in the leading 10 in the last 3 irreversible RC races, so maybe he is awaiting that unique magic.

Michigan International Speedway

Come one: this is some low hanging fruit. If Kevin Harvick is going to turn his season around at all, opportunities are great it will occur at Michigan where he has 4 success and a second-place surface in his last 6 efforts. In 2015 he swept Triumph Lane, so all he requires to do is reanimate his notes – ideal? Of course, if it was that simple he would have won earlier this year at Phoenix Raceway. If he fails to win at the Glen or Indy, chances are he will have moderately long odds in Michigan.

The odds are good that if any longshot wins at Michigan, it will come as the result of a roll of the dice. Richard Childress Racing gambles as well as anyone in the field, so this is a good place for either Austin Dillon or Tyler Reddick to snatch a surprise victory. Both drivers have been solid on unrestricted, intermediate speedways in 2021, but Dillon gets the nod because he has more experience on this track. His last Michigan top-five came in fall 2018 when he finished fourth.

Matt DiBenedetto knows he has limited chances to wow potential, future owners before he hands the keys of the No. 21 over to Harrison Burton next year. He has been able to surprise us on a number of tracks in the past two years and one never really knows when he is going to swing for the fence. Last year, he swept the top 15 on 2-mile tracks with a best of seventh in Michigan 2.

Daytona International Speedway

If we get to Daytona with 16 unique winners and the only way to get into the playoffs is by beating and banging your way to Triumph Lane, our money is on Ricky Stenhouse Jr. There are few drivers more aggressive in the draft than the driver of the No. 47 and Stenhouse is not afraid to get his hands dirty. He earned his first Cup win on the sister track of Talladega Superspeedway in 2017. His most recent win came at Daytona in the Coke Zero 400 that same year.

In his first Daytona 500 appearance, Bubba Wallace came close to notching a triumph in 2018. Notably, he used up the side of Hamlin’s Toyota as he scraped across the finish line and that determination might have had something to do with why he is in the No. 23 this year. Wallace always seems to be in the hunt on the aero-restricted superspeedways. At Daytona, he’s been worse than 17th only once in eight starts.

Stranger things have happened at Daytona than a Corey LaJoie win. We’ll refer you to Justin Haley’s 2019 Coke Zero win that made a mockery of running points’ paying races on wild card tracks. So long as NASCAR counts them, a lottery-style win is just as meaningful as one on tracks where chauffeurs control their fate – and there are no asterisks behind drivers’ names when you get to the pay window. LaJoie has actually three leading-10 surfaces in his last 4 Daytona efforts.

Regardless Of the Chances
Typical Running Position: Kansas thru Sonoma
Roadway course aces

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.