Picking your own favorite for the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series Playoffs is about more than just looking at the betting odds. After following the sport throughout the year, or even if you’re just catching up on the results now, it will be clear that driver performance can change from race to race, and we’ve seen a number of different race winners throughout the season. The two race winners with the most wins have only won four each out of the 24 races, which means that the year has been highly competitive, and often unpredictable. Picking your own driver for the playoffs sometimes relies on luck, mixed in with some season performance and some past performance. Martin Truex Jr. has been strong all year, and he is the betting favorite, but there are also underdogs like Jimmie Johnson, who is a fan favorite, and also a seven time NASCAR champion. If you’re having trouble picking your overall race winners or your final playoffs winner, then knowing what the drivers think about the favorites could help you to keep things in perspective.

Kyle Busch Thinks It’s Impossible to Have a Favorite, but Names One Anyway

When driver Kyle Busch looks at the lineup from the inside, he doesn’t think that there can be favorites in the truest sense. In a recent interview, Busch gave his reasons for this, saying that “With the way the system is set up, I don’t know that you can have a favorite, honestly. I mean, this has got to be the toughest championship in sports to win, without a question.”His words will resonate with many fans. NASCAR is a spec series, and despite teams being able to differentiate slightly based on their engine provider, car setups, and their drivers, one of the key principles of this series is that every team has an even shot at winning. This is clear when you look at the winners from this year. Only three drivers in the playoffs have not won this year. Austin Dillon down in 14th place has won a race, Jimmie Johnson won three races for Hendrick Motorsports, both Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch have won races for Stewart – Haas Racing. And, of course, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson have both won four races throughout the year. In Kyle Busch’s case, he won two races throughout the season.Even a driver who didn’t qualify for the playoffs, Joey Logano for Team Penske, won a race this season. So, when Kyle Busch says that you cannot have favorites going into the playoffs, he definitely has a point. He elaborated on his statement, saying that “with the eliminations, with one race for the championship at the end especially, you’re not out there one on one. There’s 39 other cars, and you’re racing against three of them. So, yeah, I mean, it’s got to be the toughest one there is. I don’t really know if you can have a favorite.”When pushed to choose the driver who he thought would most likely win the championship, other than himself, Busch chose the most obvious one: Martin Truex Jr. It’s clear that Busch has a lot of respect for Truex, and he gave his reasoning behind naming him. He said that “I mean, there’s no question why you can’t put him ahead of us. The reason I say that is because if you look at every single race during this year, [aside from] maybe one or two instances here or there, Truex is either first or second, or first, second or third. You look at [Kyle] Larson, if he’s not first, he’s like fourth to eighth. I feel like us [Busch and the other drivers], if we’re not first we’re fourth to sixth. Truex is always first or second. His average is always higher than what ours might be. If we’re having an off day, our off day is sixth to eighth, whatever it is. Larson’s off day is sixth to eight, whatever it is. The off day for the [car number] 78 is, like, second. That’s just how good they’ve been.”

Does Consistency in the Season Translate to Playoff Wins?

It’s interesting what Kyle Busch is saying here. He initially states that you can’t have a favorite, but then immediately explains why Martin Truex Jr. should be the favorite. Of course, there is some deflection going on here. To be a successful racing driver, it’s necessary to have a strong belief in one’s own ability to win. Busch knows that he can win, but it would be tactless and could even be considered bad luck to name himself as the favorite.However, even ignoring that, his argument that consistency in the regular season makes you a post season favorite, is not entirely bulletproof.Last year’s playoffs winner was Jimmie Johnson, making him a seven times winner in the NASCAR championship. During the season, Johnson only won two of the races, the first in Race 2 and the second in Race 5. From Race 13 onwards, Johnson was only in the Top 5 for one race. Yet, he went through to the playoffs and won three races.This not only shows that Johnson is clearly an incredible driver, but it also proves that regular season performance doesn’t necessarily mean anything in the post season. In 2003, Johnson was regularly getting strong results during the season, but he only finished second in the chase series playoffs.

There are No True Favorites, Just 16 Potential Winners

Sure, logic and the odds will tell you that Martin Truex Jr. has to be the favorite this year, but then history can tell you that a driver like Jimmie Johnson can win the playoffs without having an impressive season.When it comes down to it, your pick should be based on past performance, as well as the odds. Most importantly, you should choose the driver that impresses you most, and as we get deeper into the ten playoff races, you’ll be able to make a more informed choice when it comes to the 2017 NASCAR champion.

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