NASCAR 2020 Playoff Predictions for the Cup Series

NASCAR 2020 Playoff Predictions for the Cup Series is presented prior to the first race of the ten-race playoff season.
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA – AUGUST 29: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, leads William Byron, driver of the #24 Liberty University Chevrolet, and Matt DiBenedetto, driver of the #21 Menards/Dutch Boy Ford, during the NASCAR Cup Series Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway on August 29, 2020, in Daytona Beach, Florida. Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

NASCAR 2020 Playoff Predictions for the Cup Series is presented prior to the first race of the ten-race playoff season. These are the point standings going into the Round of 16.

Cook Out Southern 500 (Darlington)

Race Breakdown: Chase Elliott was oh-so-close to claiming victory at Darlington earlier in the season, but was involved in a pretty well-known wreck with Kyle Busch. Elliott sits on the pole for the first playoff race, and he’ll get his vengeance by starting the Round of 16 with his third win of the season. Harvick, Hamlin, and Kurt Busch all put together solid top-five finishes, with Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr., Aric Almirola, and Kyle Busch all finishing in the top-ten. Ryan Blaney loses his engine early and does not finish the race.

Stage 1 Winner: Chase Elliott

Stage 2 Winner: Kurt Busch

Race Winner: Chase Elliott

Updated Standings

1. Chase Elliott: 1 WIN

2. Kevin Harvick: +58

3. Denny Hamlin: +50

4. Joey Logano: +31

5. Brad Keselowski: +29

6. Martin Truex Jr.: +19

7. Kurt Busch: +18

8. Aric Almirola: +14

9. Kyle Busch: +12

10. Alex Bowman: +9

11. William Byron: +5

12. Clint Bowyer: +2

——

13. Matt DiBenedetto: -2

14. Austin Dillon: -5

15. Cole Custer: -10

16. Ryan Blaney: -17

Federated Auto Parts 400 (Richmond)

Race Breakdown: As predictable as it may be, it’s hard not to think of Denny Hamlin as the favorite at his home track. Hamlin grabs his seventh win of the season at Richmond in an intriguing battle with Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr. and locks his spot into the Round of 12. Kevin Harvick finishes 14th after an early speeding penalty, and Ryan Blaney comes home fifth, a huge rebound following his DNF at Darlington. Alex Bowman’s second-half bad luck continues, as he and Kurt Busch are both caught up in a late wreck.

Stage 1: Joey Logano

Stage 2: Denny Hamlin

Race Winner: Denny Hamlin 

Updated Standings

1. Denny Hamlin (1 WIN)

2. Chase Elliott (1 WIN)

3. Kevin Harvick: +57

4. Joey Logano: +48

5. Martin Truex Jr.: +33

6. Brad Keselowski: +30

7. Kyle Busch: +22

8. Aric Almirola: +18

9. Clint Bowyer: +10

10. William Byron: +10

11. Ryan Blaney: +3

12. Austin Dillon: +1

—–

13. Kurt Busch: -1

14. Matt DiBenedetto: -5

15. Cole Custer: -12

16. Alex Bowman: -19

Bass Pro Shops Night Race (Bristol)

Race Breakdown: The cutoff race for the Round of 16 brings lots of drama. Entering the race in a big hole, Alex Bowman uses an aggressive late-race strategy for better track position, but old tires cause him to fall back to 16th, ending his season. Kyle Busch wins a stage and nearly the race but spins on the last lap. His stage points give him enough of a cushion to advance. Matt DiBenedetto and Austin Dillon, fighting for the final transfer spot, get together with a few laps remaining. Dillon wrecks out, and DiBenedetto advances. Dillon, Bowman, Kurt Busch, and Cole Custer are the bottom four and unable to advance to the Round of 12.

Stage 1 Winner: Kyle Busch

Stage 2 Winner: Ryan Blaney

Race Winner: Martin Truex Jr.

Updated Standings (Before Reset)

1. Denny Hamlin (1 WIN)

2. Chase Elliott (1 WIN)

3. Martin Truex Jr. (1 WIN)

4. Kevin Harvick: +61

5. Joey Logano: +48

6. Brad Keselowski: +39

7. Aric Almirola: +26

8. Ryan Blaney: +19

9. Kyle Busch: +14

10. Clint Bowyer: +12

11. William Byron: +9

12. Matt DiBenedetto: +6

—-

13. Kurt Busch: -6

14. Cole Custer: -15

15. Austin Dillon: -22

16. Alex Bowman: -29

Standings Entering Round of 12 (After Points Reset)

1. Kevin Harvick: +52

2. Denny Hamlin: +48

3. Brad Keselowski: +24

4. Chase Elliott: +21

5. Joey Logano: +18

6. Martin Truex Jr.: +14

7. Ryan Blaney: +9

8. William Byron: +2

9. Aric Almirola: -2

10. Clint Bowyer: -3

11. Kyle Busch: -3

12. Matt DiBenedetto: -7

South Point 400 (Las Vegas)

Race Breakdown: With Denny Hamlin grabbing win number seven in the Round of 16, it’s only fitting that Harvick picks up his eighth victory of the season in another dominating performance at Las Vegas. Harvick locks himself into the Round of 8 with the win, and teammate Aric Almirola picks up a stage win for some crucial points. Joey Logano, who comes in as the favorite, blows a tire late in Stage 2, finishing multiple laps down. William Byron also has issues and digs himself into a large hole in the points.

Stage 1: Kevin Harvick

Stage 2: Aric Almirola

Race Winner: Kevin Harvick

Standings Update

1. Kevin Harvick (1 WIN)

2. Denny Hamlin: +54

3. Brad Keselowski: +36

4. Chase Elliott: +27

5. Ryan Blaney: +19

6. Aric Almirola: +13

7. Martin Truex Jr.: +10

8. Kyle Busch: +5

—-

9. Joey Logano: -5

10. Clint Bowyer: -8

11. Matt DiBenedetto: -13

12. William Byron: -23

YellaWood 500 (Talladega)

Race Breakdown: In 2018, Aric Almirola won this race to advance to the Round of 8 for the first time in his career. He replicates that feat by winning in 2020 at Talladega, to lock his spot in the Round of 8. As always, Talladega provides some drivers with huge points days, and others with hugely disappointing results. Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr., and Ryan Blaney run very well, while Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch are both caught up in late-race wrecks. William Byron has issues for the second straight race, putting him in a win-or-go-home situation.

Stage 1: Clint Bowyer

Stage 2: Erik Jones

Race Winner: Aric Almirola

Standings Update

1. Kevin Harvick (1 WIN)

2. Aric Almirola (1 WIN)

3. Denny Hamlin: +51

4. Chase Elliott: +35

5. Martin Truex Jr.: +25

6. Clint Bowyer: +18

7. Ryan Blaney: +17

8. Brad Keselowski: +10

—-

9. Joey Logano: -10

10. Matt DiBenedetto: -18

11. Kyle Busch: -19

12. William Byron: -48

Bank of America ROVAL 400 (Charlotte ROVAL)

Race Breakdown: Logano comes into the ROVAL on the outside looking in, needing a big day to advance, and he gets just that by outdueling Chase Elliott for the win on one of Elliott’s best tracks. Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. survive and advance to the Round of 8 with relative ease. But Ryan Blaney takes early damage and is unable to manage his way through the late-race carnage, barely missing out on the Round of 8. Clint Bowyer barely sneaks through, as a big Stage 3 surge by defending champion Kyle Busch falls just short. Matt DiBenedetto and William Byron join Blaney and Busch and do not move on to the Round of 8.

Stage 1: Chase Elliott

Stage 2: Joey Logano

Race: Joey Logano

Updated Standings (Before Rest)

1. Kevin Harvick (1 WIN)

2. Joey Logano (1 WIN)

3. Aric Almirola (1 WIN)

4. Denny Hamlin: +44

5. Chase Elliott: +39

6. Martin Truex Jr.: +27

7. Brad Keselowski: +14

8. Clint Bowyer: +3

—-

9. Kyle Busch: -3

10. Ryan Blaney: -10

11. Matt DiBenedetto: -22

12. William Byron: -44

Standings Entering Round of 8 (After Points Reset)

1. Kevin Harvick: +36

2. Denny Hamlin: +26

3. Brad Keselowski: +2

4. Joey Logano: +2

—-

5. Chase Elliott: -2

6. Martin Truex Jr.: -10

7. Aric Almirola: -18

8. Clint Bowyer: -24

Hollywood Casino 400 (Kansas)

Race Breakdown: After dominating the first two stages at Kansas, Brad Keselowski is unable to shut the door fully, and Kevin Harvick keeps his dominating season going by winning race number nine. Denny Hamlin’s large cushion evaporates after a disqualification for failing post-race inspection, and Clint Bowyer wrecks out early, meaning he requires a win to advance to the Championship 4.

Stage 1: Brad Keselowski

Stage 2: Brad Keselowski

Race Winner: Kevin Harvick

Updated Standings

1. Kevin Harvick (1 WIN)

2. Brad Keselowski: +22

3. Chase Elliott: +10

4. Joey Logano: +3

—-

5. Denny Hamlin: -3

6. Martin Truex Jr.: -7

7. Aric Almirola: -11

8. Clint Bowyer: -51

Texas 500 (Texas)

Race Breakdown: Like in the spring race (won by Austin Dillon), Texas brings unpredictability into the playoffs. Jimmie Johnson takes a shocking victory in his NASCAR swan song, with Ryan Blaney also claiming a post-elimination stage victory. Strong days from Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., and Aric Almirola set the stage for a crazy battle at Martinsville, as Brad Keselowski essentially locks himself in on points.

Stage 1: Joey Logano

Stage 2: Ryan Blaney

Race Winner: Jimmie Johnson

Updated Standings

1. Kevin Harvick (1 WIN)

2. Brad Keselowski: +37

3. Joey Logano: +9

4. Chase Elliott: +2

5. Martin Truex Jr.: -2

6. Denny Hamlin: -4

7. Aric Almirola: -8

8. Clint Bowyer: -55

Xfinity 500 (Martinsville)

Race Breakdown: In 2017, Denny Hamlin wrecked Chase Elliott at Martinsville while Elliott was leading in the final laps. In 2020, Elliott moves Hamlin out of the way with two laps to go, winning the race and clinching his first-ever Championship 4 berth. Despite winning seven races on the year, Hamlin misses out on the championship race, with Martin Truex Jr. barely claiming the last spot. Clint Bowyer puts together a valiant effort, including a stage win, but finishes 4th losing his chance to move into the final round. Joey Logano and Aric Almirola join Hamlin and Bowyer and miss the Championship 4.

Stage 1: Martin Truex Jr.

Stage 2: Clint Bowyer

Race Winner: Chase Elliott

Updated Standings

1. Kevin Harvick (1 WIN)

2. Chase Elliott (1 WIN)

3. Brad Keselowski: +33

4. Martin Truex Jr.: +2

—-

5. Denny Hamlin: -2

6. Joey Logano: -4

7. Aric Almirola: -13

8. Clint Bowyer: -46 

Championship 4: Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr.

NASCAR Cup Series Championship (Phoenix)

Race Breakdown: As tempting as picking a championship upset is, it’s almost impossible to bet against Kevin Harvick, especially with Denny Hamlin already out of the picture. After dropping Stage 1 to Martin Truex Jr., Harvick gains the edge late and dominates the final stage, claiming his second Cup Series championship. Truex finishes second, with Elliott fourth and Keselowski seventh. 

Stage 1: Martin Truex Jr.

Stage 2: Kevin Harvick

Race Winner: Kevin Harvick

2020 Champion: Kevin Harvick

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