NASCAR Pre-Race Media Playoff Edition: Top sleepers for this year’s championship

16 drivers enter and only one will be crowned NASCAR Cup Series champion this Fall in Phoenix. With that said, the main favorites this year to win the title are Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr.

Last year, the favorites were Kevin Harvick and Hamlin and only one of them made the championship. A sleeper in Elliott won just twice entering last year’s playoffs and was the champion in the end. Who among this year’s field are sleepers to watch?

Tyler Reddick

He took the 16th and final playoff spot but despite not having won a race during his Cup career, the two-time Xfinity Series champion has the potential to go on a run like his Richard Childress Racing teammate of Austin Dillon did last year when he marched through the first round and into the Round of 12.

Reddick is always good at the playoff opener in Darlington. Then it’s to Richmond to where he finished 11th in this playoff race last year. Finally, it’s to Bristol to where he was fourth in that race a year ago.

If he replicates that, I feel like he can get out of the first round. Then, with Las Vegas, Talladega and the ROVAL in the Round of 12, there’s reason to believe his first career win could come during this span to get him into the third round.

Alex Bowman

It’s hard calling a Hendrick driver a sleeper but Bowman is for this standpoint because no one is picking him. But, these are some good tracks in the opening round for him with Bowman being sixth in last year’s Southern 500, second in the May race a year ago, he won at Richmond this past spring then to Bristol he has a pair of top 10’s in his last six starts there. After that it’s to Las Vegas to where Hendrick is good on 550 tracks. Then we go to Talladega to where Bowman is good at superspeedway’s and finally we end the Round of 12 on the ROVAL.

Christopher Bell

I have him in the Round of 8. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver enters the playoffs hot in the sense that he has four top eight finishes in his last seven starts on the year, two of which being runner-ups. In the opening round, he was 14th at Darlington back in May, fourth at Richmond this past spring and ninth in Bristol a year ago. Then we go to the second round where Bell has been great on road courses this season, was solid on superspeedway’s and just needs a strong run in Vegas.

That’s why I feel like this may be the top sleeper of the entire playoffs.

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