A way, way too early prediction: Which 16 drivers make the NASCAR playoffs in 2018?

Brendan Marks, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Auto Racing

Think about those stores that are unnecessarily early with their holiday decorations. The ones that put out Christmas trees in October and Halloween candy in August? Well, consider this the NASCAR version of those stores.

The thing about those shops -- and this piece -- is that they do what they do for a reason. In the premature-decoration realm, that's to drum up business from people who get excited about the holidays. Here, it's to drum up attention from people excited for the 2018 NASCAR season -- specifically, the 2018 NASCAR playoff push.

Which drivers will get in again next season? Which ones will miss out, and which ones will take their places? Happy (way, way too early) holidays:

Definitely In

Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson

None of these guys is missing out. It's just that clear. Truex, Busch and Larson were dominant all season, and even in what he considered an off year, Johnson won three races. Keselowski, Harvick and Hamlin all came on strong at the end of the season and through the playoffs, and each of them had a reasonable shot at a championship. There's no way any of these seven finish outside the top 16 and they're all capable of multiple wins before the postseason.


Probably In

Ryan Blaney, Ryan Newman, Austin Dillon, Chase Elliott

The surprising name here is Chase Elliott, who finished fifth in the final standings this season and was on the cusp of qualifying for the championship race at Homestead. Problem is, he didn't, and he still hasn't won a race (despite coming in second seven times). He'll almost certainly get his first win next year, but then again, people said that about the season that just ended. As for the other three, they don't figure to dominate in 2018, but they're competitive enough that they should either steal a win or get in on points.

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