Kyle Larson won the regular season championship. Chase Elliott is the defending series champion. Martin Truex Jr. won on 3 of the 10 playoff tracks already earlier this season while Ryan Blaney arguably enters as the hottest driver.
So, lets rank the drivers from 1-16 based on who enters the playoffs with the most momentum. After all, this is a momentum based sport and as we see in most stick and ball sports, it’s not who’s the best team in the regular season that takes home the hardware come playoff time. It’s the ones who enter the hottest who usually fare the best.
I mean, just look at this season. It’s completely flipped on its head.
Denny Hamlin had 8 top fives in the 1st nine races, but only 5 top fives since.
Martin Truex Jr. had 3 wins in the first 12 races including 7 of the 12 in the top six. Over the last 14, he’s had just 3 top sixes.
William Byron had 14 top 10’s in his first 18 races on the season but only 2 top 10’s in the last 8.
Joey Logano had 8 top fives in the first 16 races but only one top five since.
Brad Keselowski had 5 top fives in the opening 11 races but over the last 15, he’s had 2.
Kyle Busch had just 4 top fives in the first 14 races but now 7 in the last 12.
Ryan Blaney had just 2 top 6’s in the first 17 races but 7 in the last 9.
Kurt Busch had only 2 top 8’s in the first 15 races. He’s had 7 of the last 11.
Christopher Bell had 4 top 8’s in the first 19 races. He’s had 4 in the last 7.
Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman and Kevin Harvick have really been the most consistent this season where everyone else has jumped up or down.
- 12 Ryan Blaney – He’s had a win in each of the last 2 weeks to go along with 3 straight top 2 finishes. Blaney, also has five top five finishes in his last six races on the season and 7 top sixes in his last nine overall.
- 5 Kyle Larson – He’s had a top 3 finish in 3 of his last 4 starts on the year. Prior to that though, he had one top five in five races but before that, he had six straight top two’s. That’s 10 top three finishes in the final 15 races to close out the regular season. Not bad.
- 18 Kyle Busch – Since the Coca-Cola 600 back on May 30, Busch has had a top 5 finish seven times in 12 starts. The only five occurrences that he didn’t get a top five? He was 11th in Nashville, 37th in Loudon, a race that he crashed while leading in the rain, 20th at Indy, a race that he was in the top five when he collected in a crash from the curbing breaking away, 7th at Michigan and 34th in Daytona last week when he was collected in a melee while running in the top five again. If Loudon, Indy and Daytona don’t happen, that’s 10 top fives in 12 races entering the playoffs.
- 9 Chase Elliott – Since May, he’s had 11 top eight’s in his last 16 starts including six of which in the top three.
5. 11 Denny Hamlin – He had eight top five finishes in the first nine races of the season. Over the last 17, he’s had just five, none of which being better than fourth. Still he’s had 7 top 10’s in the last 12 races overall and if not for HMS’ strength and some bad luck, I feel like Hamlin would have more top fives and even some trips to victory lane.
6. 1 Kurt Busch – A pair of top 6’s in his last 3 starts on the season including 7 top 8’s over his last 11 races in general.
7. 20 Christopher Bell – He’s had four top eight results in his last seven starts of 2021 including a pair of runner-ups.
Who’s Cooled Off
8. 24 William Byron – He’s had 2 top 6 finishes in his last 4 starts, but also 20th or worse in 5 of his last 7 in general.
9. 48 Alex Bowman – He’s had just one top five in his last nine races.
10. 19 Martin Truex Jr. – He’s only had 2 top five finishes in his last 10 starts on the year and only 4 in the last 17 races in general. Also, he’s been 10th or worse in 5 of the last 7.
11. 22 Joey Logano – He too has cooled. Logano, was 22nd, 34th, 33rd and 23rd respectively the last 4 races. That also equates out to one top five in the last 10 starts in general and four in the last 17. On top of that, Logano has one top 10 in the last 7 races overall too.
12. 2 Brad Keselowski – Just one top five in the last 7 races and two top fives in the last 15 overall.
Needs Some Work
13. 4 Kevin Harvick – He’s winless in almost a year now. Harvick, has two top 10’s in his last seven starts on the season including none of which being in the top five. He’s had just 6 top fives all year and only one result better than fourth.
14. 8 Tyler Reddick – He was 21st, 29th and 5th the last 3. He’s only had 2 top fives all season, 1 in Homestead and the other Saturday night in Daytona.
15. 10 Aric Almirola – Just one top five all season and 7 of his last 8 including 15 of the last 17 being 14th or worse.
16. 34 Michael McDowell – His last 12 have been 16th or worse.