As everyone knows there are only eight drivers left vying for the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. Not to take anything away from the last two years of this format, I truly believe 2016 is going to be the toughest Round of 8 in the last three years.
Seven of the eight drivers have multiple wins this year. Kurt Busch is the only exception. Five of those eight drivers are past champions of our sport that combined actually equate to 10 championships.
Honestly, I’d feel just as good to put all eight names on a wheel, spin it four times to get the drivers for the championship race at Homestead, then putting those four remaining names on the same wheel by themselves and spinning it one more time to get the champion. That’s how closely contested this championship is and how close the drivers in this field of eight are.
Would I have ever believed that Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski would have been eliminated by now? The answer is, “Heck no,” because a lot of folks saw them as being two of our final four drivers at Homestead running for the championship.
There are drivers now that have flat come to life. I’ll be candid with you; I did not have Jimmie Johnson going beyond the Round of 12 based on how they had been running going into the Chase. I’ll even admit that I had a long debate with myself to even put them in the Round of 12. They simply weren’t performing well enough or consistently.
Here he is now in this Round of 8. If I’m the other seven drivers, I’m starting to worry again about the No. 48, probably more so than the entire year to this point. Why? Jimmie and his team has won a total of 18 races at these next three tracks we are headed to. If you want to even take it a step further, Jimmie and company have won the last four Chase races at Texas Motor Speedway. With that kind of history, how do you not go ahead and move him into the final four at Homestead?
Then again, how do you ever count out Kevin Harvick when you know Phoenix is the last race in this Round of 8? Phoenix has been Kevin’s personal playground basically, with him having won six of the last eight races there.
At the same time, I think if you are the reigning champion, then the championship has to go through you so obviously, I’m looking at Kyle Busch to be a major player.
We also know that at least one driver at a minimum is going to move onto the championship round based on points. That’s what the math tells us. So, when I look at consistency when it comes to racking up points, I immediately think of Matt Kenseth in that No. 20 car. They are below the radar but trust me, they are solid as a rock.
So, for me personally, my final four to run for the championship at Homestead will be Jimmie, Kevin, Kyle and Matt. Again, those are just my personal picks.
I will take that a step further and say that I think Kyle Busch will repeat as our champion. All that being said, we saw what happened at Talladega and how the landscape got turned upside down, so the smart money says you really can’t bet against any of those eight drivers from being our 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion.