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NASCAR Cup Series predictions for the 2022 playoffs

The 2022 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs have arrived and it's time to make predictions. Who will make the Championship 4 and claim the title in Phoenix?

NASCAR: Cup Series Playoff Media Day
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The NASCAR Cup Series has finished its first regular season with the NextGen car and it was one of the most unpredictable 26 races the sport has ever seen through last weekend.

Who will make the Championship 4 and claim the title in Phoenix, AZ?

Related: NASCAR Truck Series 2022 playoff predictions

NASCAR Cup Series: Round of 16

  1. Denny Hamlin: (1 win: Kansas) – 6 playoff points
  2. Kyle Larson: (1 win: Darlington) – 5 playoff points
  3. Kevin Harvick: (1 win: Bristol) – 5 playoff points
  4. Chase Elliott: 1 playoff point
  5. Ross Chastain: 1 playoff point
  6. Kyle Busch: 2 playoff points
  7. Tyler Reddick: 1 playoff point
  8. Christopher Bell
  9. Joey Logano
  10. Ryan Blaney
  11. William Byron
  12. Alex Bowman

Eliminated: Austin Dillon, Daniel Suarez, Austin Cindric, Chase Briscoe

Denny Hamlin (Kansas), Kyle Larson (Darlington), and Kevin Harvick (Bristol) all secure victories during the Round of 16 that lock them into the next round to start off the NASCAR playoffs.

Meanwhile, NASCAR regular season champion Chase Elliott comfortably makes the next round due to stage points and his playoff points obtained throughout the season.

Ross Chastain and Kyle Busch both find themselves easily advancing to the Round of 12 despite struggling near the end of the regular season. Also, the two young guns Tyler Reddick and Christopher Bell confirm their speed this year.

Joey Logano, the No. 2 seed on the playoff grid, does not have a fantastic first round but his playoff points should help him move on to the next round. Logano’s teammate Ryan Blaney also struggles a little bit and sees the same fortune.

Finally, William Byron and Alex Bowman fill up the final two spots despite their major struggles over the course of the 2022 season. Each driver has strong tracks in this round that helps keep them alive.

Austin Dillon, Daniel Suarez, Austin Cindric, and Chase Briscoe will not advance to the Round of 12. Two sleepers from this group should be Dillon and Cindric as they each have solid tracks that could help them.

NASCAR Cup Series: Round of 12

NASCAR: Coke Zero Sugar 400
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  1. Chase Elliott: (1 win: Charlotte ROVAL) – 6 playoff points
  2. Kyle Busch: (1 win: Texas) – 5 playoff points
  3. Ryan Blaney: 1 playoff point
  4. Ross Chastain
  5. Christopher Bell: 1 playoff point
  6. Denny Hamlin
  7. Kyle Larson: 1 playoff point
  8. Tyler Reddick: 1 playoff point

Eliminated: William Byron, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Alex Bowman

Elliott’s dominant performance at the Charlotte ROVAL and Busch’s redemption at Texas after a long season of contract talks for the 2023 season secures them each a spot in the Round of 8.

Blaney and Chastain use strong runs at Talladega to help their cases going into the Charlotte ROVAL, where each should be good enough to easily move them on to bigger goals.

Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Bell and Hamlin are closer to the cut-line and have the flexibility for a dreaded road course after finishing well at Talladega. The most important part of the round is having a points gap going into the Charlotte ROVAL.

Larson will have his typical struggles trying to finish superspeedway events but the stage points that he acquires over the three-race stretch really help him. It’s not a massive buffer but enough to help him continue his championship defense.

Reddick barely squeaks into the next round after a very strong performance at the Charlotte ROVAL. While he comes up short to Elliott, it is enough to bring himself from below the cut-line and remain in the playoffs.

Byron, Logano, Harvick, and Bowman all miss out on the Round of 8. It is very notable to see Logano and Harvick miss out as they are listed as the second and ninth seeds, respectively. Byron and Bowman are as expected with their struggle.

NASCAR Cup Series: Round of 8

NASCAR: Cup Series Playoff Media Day
Sep 1, 2022; Charlotte, NC, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Larson (5) talks with the media during the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Media Day at Charlotte Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
  1. Kyle Busch: (1 win: Las Vegas) – 6 playoff points
  2. Kyle Larson: (1 win: Homestead) – 6 playoff points
  3. Chase Elliott: 1 playoff point
  4. Denny Hamlin: 1 playoff point

Eliminated: Christopher Bell, Ross Chastain, Ryan Blaney, Tyler Reddick

Busch continues to excel at the 1.5-mile tracks as they represent Joe Gibbs Racing’s biggest strength. A victory in his home state of Las Vegas makes this playoff run special after a difficult season.

Larson gets redemption at Homestead after many years of being the fastest car without a victory. It ends in a fierce battle with Reddick but the defending champion comes out on top as he looks to go back-to-back at Phoenix.

Elliott goes into Martinsville very close to the cut-line. However, he is really good at the venue and locks himself in after a very strong finish and haul of stage points. Elliott gets an opportunity to win his second NASCAR Cup Series championship.

Related: Chase Elliott wins regular-season title

If Elliott goes into Martinsville close to the cut-line, it’s easy to imagine how close Hamlin sits as the race begins. However, just like the driver of the No. 9 car, he has a strong enough run to clinch a berth for what could be his first title.

Bell, Chastain, Blaney, and Reddick all come up short of the Championship 4. Bell and Reddick come the closest after near victories at Las Vegas and Homestead, respectively. However, with their struggles at Martinsville in the past, it’s not enough.

Chastain and Blaney don’t have enough speed to get close to a victory, but they are able to gain consistent stage points that keep them in the chase. At the end of the day, it’s not enough to find themselves advancing.

NASCAR Cup Series: Championship 4

NASCAR: Verizon 200 at the Brickyard
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Results:

  1. Kyle Busch
  2. Chase Elliott
  3. Denny Hamlin
  4. Kyle Larson

What a story this is going to be for Busch. This season has been full of stress and speculation but he gets hot at the right time for Phoenix. While it might come as a surprise, there is one race this year that makes this expected.

Remember the race at Gateway? Busch was by far the best driver when looking at the advanced statistics. This is notable because drivers have previously stated that Gateway is likely the most similar track to Phoenix on the schedule.

Busch holds off Elliott and secures his third NASCAR Cup Series championship despite a long season of ride drama. It’s either going to bite Joe Gibbs Racing to let a three-time champion walk or they will be relieved he stays in the No. 18 car.

Elliott comes up close but it’s not enough for him to win his second title. He ends the season with five victories which leads every driver, even Busch who wins four races overall.

Hamlin makes it to the Championship 4 for the fifth time, which ties Martin Truex, Jr. for the most during the current format, but he doesn’t have the speed like Busch and Elliott to win the championship.

It’s the same story for Larson as he looked for his second straight title but the speed wasn’t there for him. It is still another successful season as he ends it with four victories.

At the end of the day, it is Busch who raises the trophy as the first champion in NASCAR’s NextGen car.

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