2018 NASCAR Playoffs Betting Preview, Odds, and Predictions

by Rick Rockwell
on September 13, 2018

Minute Read

On Sunday, September 16th, NASCAR’s Playoffs will officially get underway as 16 drivers will compete to win this year’s Monster Energy Cup Series Championship. With such an exciting regular season all wrapped up, it’s easy to see why some pundits are calling this the greatest NASCAR championship chase of all time.

For many racing fans, this playoff system might be confusing, but don’t worry because I’ll break it all down for you and the betting odds associated with NASCAR’s action packed postseason.

For anyone looking to bet on the playoffs, here are the top NASCAR betting sites we would recommend:

Which Drivers Made the 2018 NASCAR Playoffs?

Coming into the playoffs the following drivers are eligible for the championship:

  1. Kyle Busch 2,050
  2. Kevin Harvick 2,050
  3. Martin Truex Jr. 2,035
  4. Brad Keselowski 2,019
  5. Clint Bowyer 2,015
  6. Joey Logano 2,014
  7. Kurt Busch 2,014
  8. Chase Elliott 2,008
  9. Ryan Blaney 2,007
  10. Erik Jones 2,005
  11. Austin Dillon 2,005
  12. Kyle Larson 2,005
  13. Denny Hamlin 2,003
  14. Aric Almirola 2,001
  15. Jimmie Johnson 2,000
  16. Alex Bowman 2,000

The above list has the drivers according to their rankings to start the playoffs. Each driver was credited with playoff points throughout the season based on race wins, stage wins and where they finished in the regular season standings. Following the conclusion of the regular season, all 16 playoff eligible drivers had their overall points reset to 2,000. From there, the accrued playoff points that each driver earned during the season was added to 2,000 to determine the playoff standings.

Kyle Busch won the regular season championship based on having the most points in the driver standings. He received a 15-point playoff bonus, which allowed him to win the tiebreaker over Kevin Harvick for the top spot in the playoffs. Drivers from positions 1 down to 10 were earned bonus playoff points based on finishing in the top 10 at the end of the season.

NASCAR Playoff Format

The NASCAR playoffs consist of 4 rounds. Drivers will advance to the next round based on their playoff points totals. Eligible drivers will be able to earn additional playoff points through each playoff race by winning stages and races. I would like to point out, the 16 drivers will still have to compete against the rest of the field to win each race. So, there’s still plenty of variables that will come into play each and every playoff round.

Each playoff round breaks down as follows:

First Round (Round of 16)

The First Round consists of 3 races:

  • September 16th – South Point 400 at Las Vegas
  • September 23rd – Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond
  • September 30th – Bank of America Roval 400 at Charlotte

Following the Charlotte race, the first round of the playoffs will conclude and the Top 12 drivers will advance. Positions 13 through 16 will be eliminated from contending for the championship.

Any playoff driver that wins in the First Round, will automatically move on to the next round.

Second Round (Round of 12)

When the Second Round starts on October 7th, all drivers will have their overall points reset to 3,000. From there, each driver’s playoff points will be added to determine the rankings of the 12 eligible drivers.

The Second Round consists of 3 races:

  • October 7th – Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at Dover
  • October 14th – 1000Bulbs.com 500 at Talladega
  • October 21st – Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas

Following the race at Kansas, the Top 8 drivers in the playoff standings will move on to the next round. Once again, any playoff driver that wins one of the 2nd Round races will automatically move on to the 3rd Round. Positions 9 through 12 will be eliminated from contending for a championship.

Third Round (Round of 8)

When this round starts on October 28th, all remaining drivers will have their overall points reset to 4,000. From there, each driver will have their accrued playoff points added to determine the rankings for the 8 eligible drivers.

The Third Round consists of 3 races:

  • October 28th – First Data 500 at Martinsville
  • November 4th – AAA Texas 500 at Texas
  • November 11th – Can-AM 500 at Phoenix

Following the race in Phoenix, the Top 4 drivers in the playoff standings will advance to the Championship Round, which is just one race – Homestead in Miami. Any playoff driver that wins in the 3rd Round will automatically move on to the Championship Round. Drivers 5 through 8 will be eliminated from contending for a championship.

Championship Round

This round only consists of one race: the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead in Miami. This race takes place on Sunday, November 18th. The 4 remaining drivers will have their points reset to 5,000. However, their previously accrued playoff points will not be added. This last race is a “winner takes all” event. All 4 drivers will battle it out on equal grounds and, whoever finishes the highest at the end of the race, will become the 2018 NASCAR Champion.

NASCAR Championship Odds

The following odds are courtesy of BetOnline:

  1. Kevin Harvick +225
  2. Kyle Busch +300
  3. Martin Truex Jr. +325
  4. Kyle Larson +700
  5. Brad Keselowski +1000
  6. Clint Bowyer +2000
  7. Kurt Busch +2000
  8. Chase Elliott +2200
  9. Denny Hamlin +2200
  10. Joey Logano +2200
  11. Erik Jones +2500
  12. Ryan Blaney +2500
  13. Jimmie Johnson +4000
  14. Aric Almirola +7500
  15. Alex Bowman +10000
  16. Austin Dillon (N/A)

The Betting Favorites

According to BetOnline, NASCAR’s Big 3 comes into the playoffs as the favorites to win the 2018 Championship. This shouldn’t surprise anyone considering their domination throughout the regular season and the massive lead they have in the playoff standings due to their accrued playoff points. If you’re making you’re betting selections, stick with the Big 3.

Kevin Harvick (+225)

Harvick is a former NASCAR champ having won it all in 2014. He led the series with 7 wins on the season and 12 stage wins. Harvick also finished with 19 Top 5’s and 22 Top 10’s. Kevin was the model for consistency all season and he was arguably the fastest driver all year long.

Kyle Busch (+300)

Kyle Busch won the regular season and earned that 15 point bonus to give him the tiebreaker over Harvick for the top spot in the playoffs. Busch finished the year with 6 wins, 17 Top 5’s, 21 Top 10’s, and 5 stage wins. He’s arguably the most talented driver in the entire sport. Kyle is also a former NASCAR champ having won it in 2015.

Martin Truex Jr. (+325)

Truex is the reigning NASCAR champ and comes into the playoffs as the 3rd member of NASCAR’s Big 3. Truex won 4 races, had 15 Top 5’s, 15 Top 10’s, and finished 2nd with 7 stage wins. Martin will be looking for a new team next year as his current team has decided to shut down their racing operations.

The Betting Value

The following drivers offer great NASCAR championship betting value:

Kurt Busch (+2000)

At the beginning of the season, I took an in-depth look at the drivers and their odds on winning a championship. In my analysis, I had picked Kurt Busch as my dark horse driver to win it all. Busch is a former champ, having won it in 2004. He came into the season with odds at +7500 to win the championship. After a few races, he came down to +2800. Currently, Busch is at +2000 and I like his chances in this format. Kurt is 7th in the playoff standings but was a model of consistency throughout the year.

Joey Logano (+2200)

Logano is a sneaky pick in my opinion. Other drivers often get the attention that Logano deserves, but he’s often overlooked instead. At the beginning of the year, I picked Logano to make the Championship Round. With this playoff format, I believe he could still accomplish this. Logano only won one race this year, but he also won 3 stages and only had 2 DNFs. He’s a perennial Top 10 driver each and every week, which bodes well for Logano to make it to at least the Round of 8 (Third Round).

The Longshot

At the beginning of the year, I picked Jimmie Johnson as my best value bet to win the title. Coming into the playoffs, I believe he’s the best longshot to win. JJ at +4000 is a big number to ignore, but his 7 championships make him a threat in the playoffs. The opening round of the playoffs features Las Vegas where Johnson has won 4 times, Richmond where JJ has won 3 times, and Charlotte where JJ has won 8 times in his career. For JJ to move on to the next round, he will most likely need to win.

With the success he’s had at each track in the first round, I can see JJ pulling off a shocker and winning at least 1 race, which will give him momentum moving forward. Don’t count out JJ no matter how many points he is behind the cutoff.

Who Will Win the 2018 NASCAR Championship?

Before answering this question, let’s take a look at who will be eliminated at the conclusion of each round:

First Round: Bowman, Almirola, Dillon and Erik Jones will all be eliminated. All 4 of these drivers have never won at Vegas and Richmond. Only Dillon has won at Charlotte. Unfortunately, I don’t see him winning at Charlotte this round. Maybe he gets a stage win, but that won’t be enough from keeping him from getting eliminated.

I believe JJ will win one of the first 3 races and move on to the next round. I also see Hamlin and Larson racing well enough to make the Top 12 as both drivers have won at Richmond. They also have multiple Top 5’s and Top 10’s at Vegas and Charlotte.

Second Round: Unfortunately, this is where I think Johnson’s luck will run out. But, I wouldn’t be surprised if he won a race to move on as he’s done really well at these 3 tracks: Talladega, Kansas and Martinsville. I’m also saying goodbye to Blaney, Elliott, and Bowyer.

I’m picking Bowyer to get eliminated here as he’s lacked the speed to stick with other drivers like the Big 3, Larson and Keselowski. I think Hamlin is going to get a win in this round, as he has at least 1 career victory at each of these 3 tracks. I’m banking on Larson snagging stage wins and possibly stealing a checkered flag. However, I wouldn’t be totally shocked if he gets eliminated due to not finishing high on a consistent basis at these tracks.

Third Round: I see Kurt Busch getting eliminated, Brad Keselowski’s run will end and Kyle Larson misses out, if he even makes it to this round. I’m going with Joey Logano to make the championship round with NASCAR’s Big 3. Logano has won at Phoenix and Texas during his career. At Dover he has an average finish of 14th. Only Larson has a better average finish at Dover than Logano, but Kyle has never won at any of this round’s tracks in his career.

Final 4 (Championship Round):

Harvick, Truex Jr, and Kyle Busch are pretty much locked into making the Final 4. It will take multiple race wins by drivers outside of the Top 3 to bump one of the Big 3 out of the Championship Round. With that said, the race for the 4th spot will be incredible and, as I stated above, I believe Logano takes it.

In the final race, at Homestead, we will be treated with an epic one-race battle that will most likely come down to Harvick vs Busch. At the beginning of the year, I picked Kyle “Rowdy” Busch to win it all. Despite Harvick’s career dominance at Homestead, I have to stick with Rowdy to win the 2018 NASCAR Championship.

Betting Recap

  • Winner: Kyle Busch (+300)
  • Value: Kurt Busch (+2000) and Joey Logano (+2200)
  • Longshot: Jimmie Johnson (+4000)
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