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The Round of 8 is one of the toughest moments in the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series playoffs.
After all, only four drivers can make out of it.
This means that at least one or two strong title contenders will likely face a bitter elimination.
Of course, it’s no different in 2019.
Stage 1 at Texas could have potentially cost a shot at the title for two of the favorites heading into the race.
Heading into Phoenix, the top 4 in the standings looks set, which makes winning the final race before Homestead even more important.
What: Bluegreen Vacations 500
Where: ISM Raceway in Phoenix, AZ
When: Sunday, November 10th at 2:30 PM EST
How: NBC (TV) | Motor Racing Network (Web radio) | NBC Sports App
If you had either one, or both drivers, among your picks for the championship, Texas brought some terrible news.
Struggling with reliability issues throughout the sessions, he finished down in 36th after suffering another problem during the race.
Things then went from bad to worse after he slid into the wall early on at Texas.
He now faces an unassailable 78 points gap to fourth place, meaning that he can only advance to the Final Four with a win.
While the Hendrick Motorsports driver looked like a very good pick heading into the Round of 8, that’s definitely not the case anymore.
For Hamlin, it looked like 2019 could finally be his year.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver won five races this season, his most since 2012.
A fourth place finish at Martinsville seemingly made him a lock for Homestead.
But trouble also struck early for him at Texas, as #11 slid into the grass not too long after Elliott’s crash.
The result dropped him down to fifth, but now 20 points behind the cutoff.
He could still advance without winning at Phoenix, but that would require a bad weekend for his closest rivals.
It looks like Hamlin’s first Cup Series championship will have to wait at least another year.
On the other hand, Texas almost ensured a repeat of last year’s Big Four.
Relying on his usual consistency, the reigning champion scored another solid top 5 finish.
Logano now sits 20 points ahead of Hamlin, which leaves him in a very comfortable situation heading into this weekend.
The Team Penske driver hasn’t been as strong in 2019, with his most recent win coming at Michigan in June.
But he knows how to step up when it counts and could be a very good pick to defend the title.
Kyle Busch, meanwhile, led the race for a few laps but finished seventh.
His regular-season title, four race wins and 46 bonus points, however, gave him a good buffer.
Busch has seen a massive drop in his performance after getting off to a dominant run early in the season.
His most recent win came more than five months ago at Pocono, and he has only managed to finish inside the top 5 twice during the playoffs.
The 2015 champion has gone from title favorite to a dark horse.
His odds don’t offer a good enough payoff to compensate either, which makes him a marginal pick at best.
These latest odds are provided by DraftKings.
|Martin Truex Jr||+225|
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