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Last Updated Sep 01, 2022, 4:27 AM

NASCAR Playoffs Picks, Predictions, Odds

The green flag to the 2022 NASCAR Playoffs drops on Sunday at Darlington Raceway with 11 of the 16 qualified drivers having a chance to win their first Championship. That’s the thing that struck me first. We’ve got a lot of new faces that have been elevated in the sport with a big assist from the NextGen car and I love it. 

There are five first-time winners this season and they’re all in the playoffs. There are 16 winners overall during the first 26 races with the only one missing the playoffs being Kurt Busch who is suffering from concussion symptoms. It’s the most wide-open playoffs I’ve seen yet in all my years of following NASCAR. Just like the weekly races, anyone can win this thing.

We’re going to have 10 weeks of awesomeness with four drivers being eliminated from championship contention every three races until only four are standing for the Season Finale 500 at Phoenix Raceway on March 6.

Here’s a look at all the candidates to win in order of odds posted by Caesars Palace sportsbooks.

NASCAR PLAYOFFS PICKS & PREDICTIONS

Chase Elliott (5/2) stands alone to win the title. The 2020 Champion leads the series with four wins, 17 top10s, and is tied with two others with 10 top-fives. He’s shown to be good at all styles of tracks and doesn’t even have a road course win yet this season. Because he’s been great at Dover and Nashville, I can correlate that to win at Bristol and Phoenix. And because he won at his hometown track of Atlanta for the first time, I can suggest Las Vegas, Kansas, Texas, and Homestead might be possibilities for wins as well. His calm demeanor is his secret and it translates to running great races when he had only a good car. It’s going to take someone really special to beat Elliott in this format.

The 2021 Champion Kyle Larson (6/1) won 10 races last season. Then NASCAR moves to the NextGen car and now he no longer has an edge. He won at Fontana in Week 2 and Watkins Glen in Week 25, but he also had 10 top-fives showing that perhaps his struggles were more amplified by myself than reality. Would I bet him to win at these prices? No way. The only races I could see him doing well at are Bristol and Phoenix.

Ross Chastain (6/1) is the guy to watch. I’d hope to find better odds than what Caesars is offering but he’s got all the attributes of a cham[pion and it’s been a thrill to watch. After the Atlanta race where he was runner-up in Week 19, he had 10 top-fives to lead the series. He comes into the playoffs still with only 10 top-fives. He had some of his mojo taken away by veteran drivers trying to teach the young whipper-snapper a lesson. But he’s got to get back to being who is which is an aggressive driver. He’s one of my favorites to win it all.

Ross Chastain has failed to see a Top 10 result in seven straight races. (Getty)

Denny Hamlin (8/1) is the sentimental choice to win it all because he’s been so close in the past but never won it. It absolutely kills him inside that he hasn’t won and now he has to sit by all this week and throughout the playoffs to answer questions about how bad it hurts not to win one. “What would it mean to you to win the championship?” But this season hasn’t been great. The new car has made things tougher on him, especially at tracks he’s dominated in the past such as Darlington and Martinsville which are both in the playoffs. His win at Charlotte says he can win at Las Vegas, Texas, and Kansas. His Richmond win shows his team can do some differing pit strategies and try things outside the box to steal a win. His Pocono win taken away by NASCAR’s post-race inspection shows that his team is trying everything they can to find speed, and I like that. The unwritten NASCAR rule is that if you aren’t cheating, you’re not trying.

The two-time Champion Kyle Busch (10/1) has only six top-fives this season and his only win was on the ridiculous Dirt Race at Bristol. His best spots this season have been on 1.5-mile tracks and superspeedway races so Texas, Las Vegas, Kansas, and Homestead are in play as well as the wild card at Talladega. He has no sponsor for next year and no JGR deal so winning a championship might be his best way to find the best possible future ride. I have a feeling that it might be his brother’s No. 45 car. 

The 2018 Champion Joey Logano (10/1) has had an up-and-down season and been tough to handicap weekly. He has no pattern. One week he’s winning on the flat layout of St. Louis and then he has nothing at the flat New Hampshire layout. No continuity. He also won at Darlington, so it’s something to consider out of the gate this week. Just seven top-fives on the season but he’s second in points (2025), just 15 points behind Elliott to start the playoffs.

NASCAR PLAYOFFS BETTING ANALYSIS

The 2014 Champ Kevin Harvick (12/1) went from making graphs about how to make the playoffs with no wins to having two wins in back-to-back weeks at Michigan and Richmond. They found speed, finally. I’ll be looking for the best odds on him to win the title this week with hopes he can get to Phoenix in the Final Four where he’s the all-time winner in wins there with nine. I say that because the best comparison to Phoenix is Richmond Raceway where he was runner-up and won this season.  

Ryan Blaney (14/1) had no wins this season but on paper doesn’t look so bad with eight top-fives. Last week at Daytona with 21 laps in a rain delay he was out of the playoffs. They waited forever for the clouds to move away and then he made it after the restart. He can’t win the championship unless he quits being soft. He needs to have the mentality that he will not allow himself to be bullied. Perhaps that means sending an early message to some of the drivers that have disrespected him at some point. He’s got a long checklist to choose from. The soft don’t survive. He’s a major pass for me.

It’s been feast or famine for Tyler Reddick (14/1) in his last nine races which consist of two road course wins, a runner-up twice, a seventh, and four finishes of 21 st or worse. He brings excitement to the track every time out, and I love it, but I’m not sure he can win the points game here and there’s only one road course (Charlotte ROVAL). He’s a pass for me. 

2022 started out for William Byron (17/1) with two wins through eight races (Atlanta, Martinsville), but he’s done nothing since. He’s in a major drought with no wins or top-fives since the Martinsville win. The drought doesn’t make sense, but now it’s time to perform and I don’t think they have a switch that they can flip on that says “playoff time” and make them faster. 

Flat tracks and road courses is what Christopher Bell (22/1) is good at this season. I’ve bet him often in those settings, but we only have one road course in the playoffs and two flat tracks and they’re the last two races of the playoffs at Martinsville and Phoenix. I don’t know if he can survive until those late races. His seven top-fives led all Toyota drivers.

NASCAR PLAYOFFS LONG SHOTS

Chase Briscoe (40/1) was third to start the season off in Daytona and then won three weeks later in Phoenix for his first career Cup win. Since then, just one top-five (Charlotte). The best bet with him in the playoff might be to bet him to be eliminated after the Round of 16. It’s odd that he started fast and SHR teammate Harvick couldn’t buy a win, but now Harvick is a player to win it all.

The only highlight of Alex Bowman's (40/1) season was the Las Vegas win in Week 2. Just three top-fives in 26 races, none since May 2 at Dover. It feels like he and Hendrick teammate Byron have been getting their equipment from the junk bin for the last five months. 

I can’t envision Daniel Suarez (40/1) winning the title but I’ve been so impressed by the Trackhouse Racing team this season that I could see him and his Amigo’s gain some momentum and get into the Round of 8, it could create a special moment and provide a glimpse to the new future of NASCAR. I could see him getting his second career Cup win at Texas, the ROVAL, or Talladega which all happen to be in the Round of 12.

What a gritty win Austin Dillon (75/1) had on Sunday at Daytona but I think we have to be realistic about what we saw. Half the field wrecked making it easier for him to win and then after the restart, he punted Austin Cindric out of the way almost in the same fashion he did to win the 2018 Daytona 500. In fact, all four of his Cup wins have been kind of flukey. He has four top-fives this season, but he doesn’t make the playoffs without winning Sunday. I like him to get eliminated in the Round of 16, better known as the first stage. 

The rookie Austin Cindric (75/1) started the season with a Daytona 500 and probably should have won last week. He’s amazing with the superspeedway package and he’s top-five on all road courses, but it’s the in-between stuff that he has issues with and that will be his demise in this playoffs.

NASCAR PLAYOFFS TOP-4 FINISH PREDICTION

  1. #9 Chase Elliot (+270)
  2. #4 Kevin Harvick (+1200)
  3. #1 Ross Chastain (+850)
  4. #18 Kyle Busch (+1000)

NASCAR CUP SERIES
WEEKLY PREDICTIONS

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