The NASCAR Cup Series round of eight last season was certainly one to remember.
In Las Vegas, Joey Logano went from eighth to second in nine laps and won an epic six-lap battle battle with Ross Chastain to punch his ticket to the Championship Four.
Then, in the cutoff race at Martinsville, not only did Christopher Bell win his way in to the Championship Four but Chastain pulled off the ‘Hail Melon’ to join Bell in it.
This season’s Round of 8 has same three tracks as last season — two 400-mile races at 1.5-mile tracks Las Vegas and Homestead. Then, Martinsville takes center stage for the 500-lap cutoff race.
Here’s who we’ve picked to be eliminated in this season’s Round of 8.
Kevin Harvick’s last dance will not end in fairy tale fashion.
Despite some momentum from consecutive wins at Richmond and Michigan last season, the No. 4 team didn’t even make it out of the Round of 16.
This year, Harvick doesn’t have those wins but he does have some momentum. The 47-year-old driver finished the regular season with five top-10 finishes in the final seven races, including two top-fives.
That type of consistency could get you to the Round of 8. Getting out of it, especially with so few playoff points (Harvick is the No. 15 seed with four points), is another story.
If you don’t have playoff points in the Round of 8, you have to win. Stewart-Haas Racing had speed at Martinsville in the spring which could help Harvick – but so much changes from spring to fall. Not to mention, so much changes throughout the race that can put fast cars in the back and stuck there.
If the No. 4 team can somehow advance beyond the Round of 8, Harvick would be a major threat to win the title.
Harvick looked like he could cruise to victory in Phoenix back in the spring before an untimely caution spoiled the day. Phoenix is by far the former champion’s best track.
We just think SHR’s lack of speed this season will likely take a sizeable bite out of Harvick’s final big feast.
In recent years, the Round of Eight was when Joey Logano shined the brightest.
The two-time Cup Series champion has appeared in the Championship Four five times. In 2018, 2020 and 2022, he won the Round of Eight opener and used that extra prep time to go win the title in ’18 and ’22, respectively.
Logano’s impressive drive and clever strategy in the waning moments in Las Vegas last fall got the job done in the Round of Eight.
That was on the heels of a strong regular season where he finished second in points, won two races and won five stages.
This regular season, he finished 11th in points, won at Atlanta after getting a stage win and two others throughout the first 26 races.
Logano has had seven finishes in the 30s littered throughout the regular season and an apparent lack of pace mixed in.
While Logano is a guy you never want to count out, he doesn’t stand out as someone you’ll want to bet on for the title this year.
The Round of 8 was quite eventful for Christopher Bell in 2022. At Las Vegas, he was collected in the wreck between Bubba Wallace and Kyle Larson. A subsequent DNF put the No. 20 team in must-win territory.
Bell was able to find that victory at Martinsville, punching his Championship Four ticket.
In the championship race, a slow pit stop, in which the tire changer’s finger got stuck in the spoke of the wheel, cost Bell the chance to run down Logano for the win.
Bell has been good this season but just not as “pull off two clutch wins and make the championship race” good. His only win was at Bristol dirt and the closest he has come elsewhere besides a superspeedway was third at Watkins Glen.
If Bell is going to make his second straight Championship Four, he’ll need to prove himself as a winner and keep it going through the 10 races.
However, having won Martinsville last Fall, anything is possible for the No.20 car.
A driver coming into the playoffs with arguably the most momentum is RFK Racing’s Chris Buescher.
Buescher won three of the final five races of the regular season and even finished seventh in Watkins Glen in that span — something RFK Racing may not have even predicted.
Buescher won last season’s playoff race at Bristol. For playoff points to advance, that could serve the No. 17 team well if a similar result could be had in 2023.
Along with the three wins, Buescher finished the 2023 regular season with three other top-five finishes and nine other top-10s.
Seeded fourth, Buescher is a good dark-horse pick for the Championship Four and the championship. We think it may not be the year this year –but this is just the beginning.
The NASCAR Cup Series playoffs is set to begin Sunday September 3rd, when the green flag drops on the Cook Out Southern 500 just after 6 P.M. EST.