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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

Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne, Jamie McMurray, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Kenseth and Kahne don't have rides for next year, so that's an easy two. The hardest one to count out was Stenhouse Jr., who won two restrictor-plate races in 2017. He's too irregular to be counted on, and while he's a solid driver, there are others who barely missed out in 2017 that figure to hop him. As for Kurt Busch and McMurray, neither was ever a real threat in the playoffs, and it's just as likely different fringe drivers will make it in ahead of them.

Replacements

William Byron, Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones

Bowyer and Logano were both good in 2017, but not quite good enough to get into the postseason. That'll change this year, and Logano could even figure to make a deep run, potentially even to Homestead. Suarez and Jones, two rookies in 2017, improved steadily throughout the season, and they should be able to convert those strong finishes into at least a win each in 2018. The wild card is Charlotte native William Byron, who is making the jump to the Cup Series after winning the Xfinity Series championship in 2017, his lone season at that level. Byron has shown a ton of potential in his two seasons in NASCAR, and he's found immediate success at every level. It may be a gamble, but that should continue at NASCAR'shighest level.

 

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