It’s finally that time of the year again. The road to Homestead-Miami Speedway gets underway this weekend as the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs commence this Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
I’m excited to see the intensity ratchet up among drivers now that the playoffs are here. The race this weekend is the first of 10 playoff races, and with three drivers being eliminated from title contention after each round, the sense of urgency is growing for the 16-driver playoff field.
The 2018 playoffs promises to be another competitive postseason as it consists of six past Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champions and two drivers who are making their postseason debut.
As a result of accumulating playoff points due to regular season success, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick currently lead the field of drivers with 2,050 playoff points, but the reigning MENCS champion, Martin Truex Jr., is right on the heels of Busch and Harvick.
While Busch, Harvick and Truex are pegged as the favorites to make the Championship 4 here at Homestead-Miami Speedway, there are plenty of other drivers who have made the case this season that they can compete for a championship.
Brad Keselowski is entering the playoffs with perhaps more momentum than any other driver in the field after winning the final two races of the regular season. The 2012 MENCS champion isn’t the only driver from Team Penske looking to make a splash in the MENCS playoffs. His teammates Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano are also in the playoffs and each driver has led more than 300 laps this season.
For as much success as Team Penske has shown during the regular season, Stewart-Haas Racing looks equally primed for a deep playoff run. Led by Harvick, all four of Stewart-Haas’ drivers find themselves in the first round of the playoffs with Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch also vying for a championship. The Stewart-Haas Racing team has combined to win more races (10) and lead more laps (2,300) than any other team this season.
Of course you can’t forget about the seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson who, although he enters the playoffs in 15th, is always capable of bringing home another championship. The only driver in the field with more than one MENCS title to his name, Johnson will be in pursuit of what would be a record-breaking eighth championship.
Just as you keep an eye on the wily veteran chasing history, keep in mind the young drivers in pursuit of their first championship. Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon and Kyle Larson are each entering their third consecutive MENCS playoffs, and while they currently sit eighth, eleventh and twelfth in the playoffs respectively, there is certainly promise in each driver. Elliott got his first win of his Cup series career at Watkins Glen this season and has scored a top-10 finish in six of the final seven race of the regular season. Dillon started the 2018 season with a bang, winning the Daytona 500, but he has also captured titles in both the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the NASCAR XFINITY Series. Larson, meanwhile, has led a combined 277 laps in the last two races at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and if he can reach the Championship 4, he’ll have an excellent shot at bringing home the title.
Alex Bowman and Erik Jones, who are each driving in their first MENCS postseason, round out the playoff field. Jones is no stranger to the playoff stage though, as he won the 2015 NCWTS title right here at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
As the playoffs get underway this weekend, take a look at the playoff grid as it currently stands heading into Las Vegas.
Kyle Busch 2,050
Kevin Harvick 2,050
Martin Truex Jr. 2,035
Brad Keselowski 2,019
Clint Bowyer 2,015
Joey Logano 2,014
Kurt Busch 2,014
Chase Elliott 2,008
Ryan Blaney 2,007
Erik Jones 2,005
Austin Dillon 2,005
Kyle Larson 2,005
Denny Hamlin 2,003
Aric Almirola 2,001
Jimmie Johnson 2,000
Alex Bowman 2,000
With the 2018 Monster Energy Series Playoffs culminating at Homestead-Miami Speedway with the Ford EcoBoost 400 on Sunday, November 18, there is sure to be plenty of fireworks as the Championship 4 battle for the series crown. I can’t wait to see how the playoffs begin to unfold this weekend and leading up to Ford Championship Weekend here at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
NASCAR ACTION THIS WEEKEND
Sunday, September 16 at 3:00 PM (ET)
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
NBCSN & SiriusXM NASCAR Ch. 90
Saturday, September 15 at 5:00 PM (ET)
NASCAR XFINITY Series DC Solar 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
NBCSN & SiriusXM NASCAR Ch. 90
Friday, September 14 at 9:00 PM (ET)
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series World of Westgate 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
FS1 and SiriusXM NASCAR Ch. 90
UPCOMING EVENTS AT HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY
September 16 Give Back at the Track
September 21 Fast Lane Friday
September 22 Performance Driving Group
September 23 Sports Car Club of America
September 30 Legacy Track Dayz
2018 HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY NASCAR DATES
Nov. 16 Ford EcoBoost 200 Camping World Truck Series Championship Race
Nov. 17 Ford EcoBoost 300 XFINITY Series Championship Race
Nov. 18 Ford EcoBoost 400 Monster Energy Series Championship Race