NASCAR playoff picture, championship odds: Kyle Busch, Dale Jr. winless ahead of New Hampshire race – CBSSports.com

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs are getting closer with 18 of the 26 regular-season races in the books. When the circuit heads to Chicagoland Speedway in September, 16 drivers will be competing for a championship.

Here is a look at where things stand heading into the upcoming race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Locked in

Kyle Larson: The No. 42 driver is currently leading the regular-season points in addition to his two wins. Larson impressed at Kentucky finishing second after starting from the rear.

Martin Truex Jr.: Fresh off his third win of the season at Kentucky Speedway, Truex has been absolutely dominant. His 13 stage victories alone are more than any other team has combined. The No. 78 driver is second in the regular-season standings but would be in first place if the playoffs started today.

Kevin Harvick: Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 4 finally clinched a playoff spot with a win at Sonoma. Harvick currently sits fourth in the regular-season standings behind Kyle Busch, who has yet to win. He will have a chance to go back-to-back at New Hampshire after winning the race in 2016.

Brad Keselowski: The No. 2 secured a spot in the playoffs when it went to Victory Lane at Atlanta. Keselowski also took the checkered at Martinsville and has 11 top-10 finishes. He will look to rebound from a race-ending crash at Kentucky when the series heads to New Hampshire.

Jimmie Johnson: It’s no surprise that the seven-time NASCAR champion is a lock already. Johnson has wins at Texas, Bristol and Dover. If the playoffs started today, Johnson would be second only to Truex Jr. with 16 playoff points.

Ryan Blaney: An exciting first-career win at Pocono locked the descendant of Dave and Lou Blaney into the playoffs this year as he currently sits 13th in the regular-season standings. Blaney finished 10th at Kentucky.

Kurt Busch: A Daytona 500 victory can go a long way. The Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 hasn’t been back to Victory Lane since, but Busch will have a chance to earn his fourth career track victory at New Hampshire.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: The No. 17 is really beginning to look like a contender after winning at both Talladega and Daytona this season. He has yet to prove himself on short tracks, which will be critical if Stenhouse has any hopes of winning it all.

Ryan Newman: A win at Phoenix early locked Newman into the NASCAR playoffs, as he currently sits behind Stenhouse at 17th in the regular-season standings.

Austin Dillon: You may recall Dillon taking the No. 3 car back to Victory Lane at his hometown track, Charlotte. Like Newman, Dillon hasn’t been all that impressive in stage racing, but either way, he will have a chance to compete for a championship.

In (for now)

Kyle Busch: Believe it or not, the No. 18 has yet to make a trip to Victory Lane this season other than the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race. Busch is sitting pretty at third in the points but hasn’t won a race since the 2016 Brickyard 400. He does, however, have two career wins at New Hampshire with the last one coming in 2015.

Chase Elliott: The No. 24 posted a strong third-place finish at Kentucky this past weekend and has been solid throughout the season. At fifth in the points, Elliott remains winless but has six top-5 finishes to show for it.

Jamie McMurray: Here is one of those drivers that hasn’t accumulated any playoff points or wins but has been solid all year. McMurray has been Mr. Consistent, with 11 finishes in the top 10 this season, including a seventh-place finish at Kentucky.

Denny Hamlin: The No. 11 driver was the first rookie to qualify for the Chase back in 2006 and is no stranger to NASCAR’s playoffs, but without a win yet this season Hamlin finds himself closer and closer to missing out.

Clint Bowyer: A two-time winner at New Hampshire, Bowyer could find his way into the playoffs with a win in the Overton’s 301. He’d be in if the playoffs ended today, but if any new winners come to Victory Lane, his spot will become even less secure.

Matt Kenseth: Here we have another driver desperate for a win that has seen success at New Hampshire. Kenseth has won there three times over the course of his career with the last two coming in 2015 and 2016. After announcing that he will most likely be out at Joe Gibbs Racing next year, the world knows Kenseth has something to prove.

Down, but not out (yet)

Joey Logano: Wait a minute, didn’t he win at Richmond? Well, yes, but it doesn’t count toward the playoffs because it was an “encumbered” victory. After finishing eighth at Kentucky, Logano hopes to ride momentum toward his third career win at New Hampshire.

Erik Jones: The rookie has been impressive in his series debut as he currently sits 14th in the regular-season points, but Jones will most likely need a win to lock himself in.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Junior is currently 21st in the points as he continues his farewell tour but will have multiple shots to win before the playoffs begin. The No. 88 driver has won before at Pocono, Michigan, Bristol and Richmond, which are all coming up on the calendar. He has been unimpressive at New Hampshire over the course of his career, averaging a 15.27 finish.

NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Standings

Winless drivers that have won at upcoming tracks

New Hampshire: Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne
Indianapolis: Kyle Busch, Jamie McMurray, Paul Menard
Pocono: Hamlin, Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kahne, Chris Buescher
Watkins Glen: Hamlin, Kyle Busch, A.J. Allmendinger
Michigan: Kyle Busch, Hamlin, Earnhardt Jr., Kenseth, Kahne
Bristol: Kyle Busch, Hamlin, Kenseth, Earnhardt Jr., Kahne
Darlington: Kyle Busch, Hamlin, Kenseth
Richmond: Kyle Busch, Hamlin, Kenseth, Bowyer, Earnhardt Jr., Kahne

Odds to win the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Here are the betting odds for the Cup series title, via VegasInsider.com

  • Martin Truex Jr. 9/2
  • Kyle Busch 5/1
  • Jimmie Johnson 6/1
  • Brad Keselowski 6/1
  • Kevin Harvick 7/1
  • Kyle Larson 7/1
  • Joey Logano 10/1
  • Chase Elliott 14/1
  • Denny Hamlin 20/1
  • Ryan Blaney 20/1
  • Matt Kenseth 25/1
  • Clint Bowyer 33/1
  • Kurt Busch 40/1
  • Jamie McMurray 50/1
  • Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 50/1
  • Erik Jones 66/1
  • Austin Dillon 66/1
  • Ryan Newman 66/1
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. 100/1
  • Kasey Kahne 100/1
  • Daniel Suarez 100/1
  • Danica Patrick 500/1

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