NASCAR ISM Raceway Cup Series Preview

Here is a preview of the NASCAR playoff drivers as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to ISM Raceway for the Can-Am 500.

The NASCAR Cup Series is headed to ISM Raceway for the penultimate race in the 2019 season and final race in the Round of 8.

Heading into ISM Raceway, will we see a Chase Elliott or Denny Hamlin win to get into the playoffs? Will Joey Logano make it to the next round? Will we see a surprise driver win or see someone snap their winless streak?

Here are playoff drivers to keep any eye on this weekend to see how they perform at ISM Raceway.

Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick

Both Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick punched their ticket to the championship finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway next weekend. Truex Jr. has already had one week to prepare for the finale after winning the Round of 8 opening race at Martinsville Speedway.

Now it’s Kevin Harvick’s turn to have a weekend of less pressure at ISM Raceway. He heads into the weekend more surprised with the victory at Texas Motor Speedway since he thought this would be the weekend they would win.

“You know, I’m surprised but I’m not. But I think the expectations are always there. I think for me, I still feel like this was our best chance to win.,” said Harvick in his pre-race advance.

“I know Rodney, he’s always the positive one. And I tell you – I’ve told you guys that before – at some point he’s going to talk me into thinking we can win every single race.

“So I’m surprised but I’m not because of the character of the team, and I love the way it’s evolved and the battle we’ve had to get there and really tried to achieve something that wasn’t really achievable when we first started the season this year.”

Kyle Busch sits third in the NASCAR playoffs. (World Copyright: NKP)

Kyle Busch

Points above cutoff: +22
Career wins at Phoenix: 3
Average finish at Phoenix: 11.1

Busch sits a comfortable 22 points ahead of the cutoff but only has a two point cushion on the driver directly behind him. He hopes to join his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Martin Truex Jr., in the Championship 4.

He won at ISM Raceway earlier this year and led a race-high 177 laps. The driver of the No. 18 Toyota should be in the mix to not only advance to the next round but also win the race.

Busch clinches a spot in the Championship 4 by earning 53 points and there being a new race winner. If there is a repeat winner (or a win by Joey Logano), he would clinch a position having earned 34 points.

The defending Cup Series Champion currently has the last transfer spot in the playoffs. (World Copyright: NKP, Matthew Thackler)

Joey Logano

Points above cutoff: +20
Career wins at Phoenix: 1
Average finish at Phoenix: 15.2

The defending series champion has somehow entered the cutoff race 20 points on the good side. After a controversial self-spin at Martinsville that kept Logano on the lead lap, he enters the race at ISM Raceway with 20 points to spare compared to Denny Hamlin.

Logano finished tenth at ISM Raceway earlier this year and is one of three drivers left in the playoffs who have won at this track.

Logano clinches a spot in the Championship 4 by earning 55 points and there being a new race winner. If there is a repeat winner or a Kyle Busch victory, he would need to earn only 36 points.

Denny Hamlin is looking for his second career win at ISM Raceway. (World Copyright: NKP, Matthew Thackler)

Denny Hamlin

Points below cutoff: -20
Career wins at Phoenix: 1
Average finish at Phoenix: 11.3

Hamlin is the first driver on the wrong side of the playoff bubble. In arguably his best career year, it all comes down to ISM Raceway for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver.

Hamlin started third at ISM Raceway earlier this year and finished fifth after leading seven laps. He finished third among the Joe Gibbs Racing drivers, with both Busch and Truex Jr. outpacing him.

Hamlin can clinch a spot in the Championship 4 on points but will need help to do it. A win would result in an automatic spot in the Championship 4.

Ryan Blaney needs to win at ISM Raceway or needs some help to advance on points. (World Copyright: NKP, Matthew Thackler)

Ryan Blaney

Points below cutoff: -23
Career wins at Phoenix: 0
Average finish at Phoenix: 15.9

Blaney sits two spots behind the cutoff but seems to be more of a long-shot to get in the Championship 4 compared to the drivers ahead of him.

However, Blaney is visiting a track where he finished third earlier this year and led 94 laps after starting on the pole. This could be the best chance of all three tracks in the Round of 8 for Blaney to advance.

Blaney can clinch a spot in the Championship 4 on points but will need help to do it. A win would result in an automatic spot in the Championship 4.

Kyle Larson hopes to leave ISM Raceway as the only Chevy to advance to the Championship 4 since 2016. (World Copyright: NKP, Nigel Kinrade)

Kyle Larson

Points below cutoff: -23
Career wins at Phoenix: 0
Average finish at Phoenix: 15.9

Kyle Larson was frustrated with Bubba Wallace’s spin at Texas Motor Speedway, which he thought was intentional. The spin resulted in Larson losing valuable spots on the track and at least 10 points.

Larson is tied with Blaney in the point standings heading into ISM Raceway and similar to Blaney, had a strong finish earlier this year with a sixth place finish after starting 31st.

Larson can clinch a spot in the Championship 4 on points but will need help to do it. A win would result in an automatic spot in the Championship 4.

All eyes are on Chase Elliott as he needs to win at ISM Raceway to keep his championship hopes alive. (World Copyright: NKP, Rusty Jarrett)

Chase Elliott

Points below cutoff: -78
Career wins at Phoenix: 0
Average finish at Phoenix: 10.1

Elliott enters ISM Raceway in a must-win position. The Round of 8 went from bad to worse for Elliott after clinching his spot with a win during the previous round.

Elliott finished 12th at ISM Raceway earlier this year after starting second. He, along with Larson, will try to put Chevy in the Championship 4 for the first time since 2016.

Elliott Must win to earn a spot in the Championship 4.

Follow Matt on Twitter @mattlovisa.

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