NASCAR playoff picture, title odds: Kasey Kahne clinches; Dale … –

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs are getting closer with 20 of the 26 regular-season races in the books. When the circuit heads to Chicagoland Speedway in September, 16 drivers will be competing for a championship.

Here is a look at where things stand heading into the upcoming race at Pocono Speedway.

Locked in

Martin Truex Jr.: Simply said, this guy has everyone beat right now in much the same fashion that Jimmie Johnson has dominated over the past decade. Truex Jr.’s resume is impressive to say the least, with three race wins and 14 stage victories this year. He just barely missed his 15th and 16th stage wins Sunday at the Brickyard, losing out to Kyle Busch before crashing out.

Kyle Larson: The No. 42 driver is currently second in the standings in addition to his two wins. Larson continues to impress behind the wheel regardless of what penalty could come his way. He was on his way to another top-15 finish before wrecking in the final laps at Indy. Look for Larson to rebound next week at Pocono.

Kevin Harvick: A win at Sonoma clinched Harvick’s spot in the playoffs, but he was likely getting in on merit anyway. The No. 4 current sits third in the standings behind Truex Jr. and Larson. Harvick added another top-10 finish at the Brickyard.

Denny Hamlin: Joe Gibbs Racing finally has a driver in the playoffs after Hamlin won at New Hampshire. No longer on the outside looking in, the No. 11 is fifth in the standings and is now a legitimate championship contender.

Brad Keselowski: Two early-season victories locked Keselowski into the playoffs but he’s looked great as of late. The No. 2 nearly edged out Kasey Kahne on the final restart at Indy, but a second-place finish heading into the Tricky Triangle isn’t too shabby.

Jimmie Johnson: It’s no surprise that the seven-time NASCAR champion is a lock already. Johnson has wins at Texas, Bristol and Dover. If the playoffs started today, Johnson would be second only to Truex Jr. with 16 playoff points. The No. 48 is poised to do what he always does: dominate the playoffs.

Ryan Blaney: Blaney will return to the scene of his playoff-clinching first-career win Sunday when the series heads to Pocono. A sweep would most definitely help the No. 21’s championship odds.

Kurt Busch: A Daytona 500 victory can go a long way. The Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 hasn’t been back to Victory Lane since. Busch has looked good in the Ford this season, currently 14th place.

Ryan Newman: A win at Phoenix early locked Newman into the NASCAR playoffs and the veteran driver added a third-place finish to his resume at Indianapolis which put him ahead of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in the regular season standings at least.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: The No. 17 is really beginning to look like a contender after winning at both Talladega and Daytona. Unfortunately, Stenhouse Jr. was part of the chaotic slew of wrecks that occurred at Indy, but he, like many drivers will look to rebound at Pocono this week. 

Kasey Kahne: We’re not sure Hendrick Motorsports expected the No. 5 car to be in the championship hunt this year, but that’s what winning does. Kahne outlasted just about everyone in the madness that ensued at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and will look to ride that momentum moving forward.

Austin Dillon: You may recall Dillon taking the No. 3 car back to Victory Lane at his hometown track, Charlotte. Like Newman, Dillon hasn’t been all that impressive in stage racing, but either way, he will have a chance to compete for a championship.

In (for now)

Kyle Busch: So the No. 18 is the first winless car in simply based on merit, but with parity increasing we’re not sure his spot is all that safe. Busch’s best chance to win was Indy, but he fell victim to an awful crash with Truex Jr. with just 49 laps to go. Rowdy was leading the race at the time. Good news for his fans though, Busch has won at five of the remaining six regular season tracks.

Jamie McMurray: Here is one of those drivers who hasn’t accumulated any playoff points or wins but has been solid all year. McMurray has been Mr. Consistent, with 11 finishes in the top 10. The No. 1 finished 15th at Indy.

Chase Elliott: The No. 24 posted was one of the first cars to head to the garage at the Brickyard with engine failure, which continues to be a problem for Hendrick Motorsports this season. The DNF was enough to bump Elliott behind McMurray in the standings.

Matt Kenseth: This guy is literally driving for a new job after it was recently announced that Erik Jones would be replacing Kenseth in the No. 20 car at Joe Gibbs Racing next season. His chances are much higher than others on the bubble, however, with two consecutive top-five finishes at New Hampshire and Indianapolis. Kenseth has won at Pocono before and could clinch with a win on Sunday.

Down, but not out (yet)

Clint Bowyer: The Stewart-Haas Racing driver was involved in one of Sunday’s ugliest collisions, but is still in the hunt. Unfortunately for Bowyer, he has not won at any of the remaining regular season tracks, but you never know.

Joey Logano: That encumbered win is really starting to hurt Logano, who is continuing to run out of options. Even with a strong top-five finish at Indianapolis, it’s going to take a win for the 2016 championship runner-up to make the playoffs this season. 

Erik Jones: The rookie has been impressive in earning a contract with Joe Gibbs Racing to drive the historic No. 20 car next season, but will most likely need his first-career win to make it into the playoffs this season. 

Dale Earnhardt Jr.: We are simply not ready to give up on Junior yet and for good reason. Despite losing a radiator at the Brickyard, that wasn’t his best chance to win. The No. 88 has secured wins at Pocono, Michigan, Bristol and Richmond over his historic career and repeating at any of those tracks could ensure a playoff spot for the NASCAR legend.

2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regular season standings

Winless drivers that have won at upcoming tracks

Pocono: Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chris Buescher
Watkins Glen: Kyle Busch, A.J. Allmendinger
Michigan: Kyle Busch, Earnhardt Jr., Kenseth
Bristol: Kyle Busch, Kenseth, Earnhardt Jr.
Darlington: Kyle Busch, Kenseth
Richmond: Kyle Busch, Kenseth, Bowyer, Earnhardt Jr.

Odds to win the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Here are the betting odds for the Cup series title, via

  • Martin Truex Jr. 9/2
  • Kyle Busch 5/1
  • Jimmie Johnson 6/1
  • Brad Keselowski 6/1
  • Kevin Harvick 7/1
  • Kyle Larson 7/1
  • Joey Logano 10/1
  • Chase Elliott 14/1
  • Denny Hamlin 20/1
  • Ryan Blaney 20/1
  • Matt Kenseth 25/1
  • Clint Bowyer 33/1
  • Kurt Busch 40/1
  • Jamie McMurray 50/1
  • Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 50/1
  • Erik Jones 66/1
  • Austin Dillon 66/1
  • Ryan Newman 66/1
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. 100/1
  • Kasey Kahne 100/1
  • Daniel Suarez 100/1
  • Danica Patrick 500/1


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