The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs consist of 16 drivers, but only one can be crowned champion. Who will emerge as that one?
Following an unpredictable 2023 NASCAR Cup Series regular season, the four-round, 10-race playoffs are scheduled to begin this Sunday evening at Darlington Raceway with the Cook Out Southern 500.
This 367-lap race around the four-turn, 1.366-mile (2.198-kilometer) egg-shaped “Track Too Tough To Tame” in Darlington, South Carolina was won by a non-playoff driver last year, and given who all missed this year’s postseason, that could very well happen again this weekend.
But the focus is now placed squarely on the 16 drivers still eligible to be crowned champion. Four will be eliminated following the first three races of the playoffs, four more will be eliminated following the next three, and four more will be eliminated following the next three, leaving four for the winner-take-all Championship 4 at Phoenix Raceway in early November.
Who will those four drivers be when it comes to the final battle for the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series championship?
FanDuel Sportsbook, which is offering fans $200 just for signing up and placing a $5, lists Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. as the favorite to win this year’s championship.
It is no surprise to see that Truex is the favorite after he won the regular season championship with three victories, just one season after he finished no higher than fourth place in any race and failed to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2014.
While Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron had two more wins than anybody in the field during the regular season with five, consistency has been a struggle at times, and a cold stretch during the playoffs could prove disastrous, especially after was effectively docked seven playoff points. That said, his ability to run at the front anywhere makes him a solid top three favorite.
What is somewhat surprising is the drop-off from the top five to sixth place Christopher Bell. While all of the top five have odds of +600 or shorter, Joe Gibbs Racing’s lone representative in last year’s Championship 4 is only listed at +1200. In a season during which there truly haven’t been a clear top five, there could be some value when it comes to drivers listed at +1200 or longer.
RFK Racing’s Chris Buescher, who hasn’t failed to win an oval race since July 23, stands out at +1800. Despite the fact that only Byron won more regular season races than Buescher did and the fact that Buescher is set to enter the playoffs as the number four seed, he is listed ahead of only four of the other 15 playoff drivers.
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Darlington Raceway is scheduled to open up the playoffs this Sunday, September 3 at 6:00 p.m. ET, with live coverage set to be provided by USA Network. If you have not already done so, begin a free trial of FuboTV now and don’t miss it!