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Round of 16 Preview

The Round of 16 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs will see a new set of tracks beginning this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Vegas will host the Cup Series twice in one season for the first time since joining the schedule in 1998. Vegas will then be followed by Richmond Raceway and then the new Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL.

“I think any time you can mix it up and change it up, it’s just a new dynamic and everybody just has to get used to it,” Kyle Busch said. “With some new race tracks here in the playoffs, it’s definitely going to be different than what we’ve seen in years past. The contenders might not necessarily be any different, but definitely who is going to win some of these races is somewhat of an unknown.â€�

Playoff drivers Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. have combined to win the last five spring races at Las Vegas.

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Keselowski, who has won the last two races in the regular season, is the only driver that has finished in the top 10 in each of the last six races at Las Vegas. He enters the playoffs ranked fourth in playoff points.

“The 10 playoff bonus points are nice and you never know when you will need them but they are just 10,” Keselowski said. “We are like 30-some behind those other guys. We will take it and are thrilled to death with it but beyond just the short picture of having won two marquee races in a row which is an incredible feeling, I think it doesn’t particularly mean that much for the playoffs.â€�

Playoff Drivers at Las Vegas
Drivers ranked in playoff seeding order

Driver Races Wins Top 5s Top 10s
Kyle Busch 14 1 6 7
Kevin Harvick 18 2 5 8
Martin Truex Jr. 13 1 3 5
Brad Keselowski 10 2 4 6
Clint Bowyer 13 0 1 4
Joey Logano 10 0 3 6
Kurt Busch 17 0 1 4
Chase Elliott 3 0 1 1
Ryan Blaney 4 0 1 3
Erik Jones 2 0 0 1
Austin Dillon 6 0 1 1
Kyle Larson 5 0 2 3
Denny Hamlin 13 0 2 6
Aric Almirola 10 0 0 1
Jimmie Johnson 17 4 6 9
Alex Bowman 3 0 0 0

Ryan Blaney, who won the pole at Las Vegas in the spring, has finished in the top 10 in his last three starts there and leads all playoff drivers with a 9.2 average finish at the track (four starts).

“It will be different from the first race,” Blaney said. “It is a lot hotter. It is supposed to be like 100 degrees on Sunday. That will be pretty warm. We will see how it is. The track will change. It will be different from the first race this year and I am sure we will move around the race track more. We will be running up the race track a lot. We will have to find out on Friday.â€�

Playoff Drivers at Las Vegas
Drivers ranked in playoff seeding order

Driver Laps Led Poles Avg. Start Avg. Fin.
Kyle Busch 240 2 9.7 13.3
Kevin Harvick 438 0 18.6 14.1
Martin Truex Jr. 164 0 15.2 12.5
Brad Keselowski 188 1 9.6 14.5
Clint Bowyer 17 0 17.2 17.8
Joey Logano 196 1 8.2 9.7
Kurt Busch 85 2 9.1 22.5
Chase Elliott 0 0 10.3 25.0
Ryan Blaney 1 1 12.0 9.2
Erik Jones 0 0 8.5 11.5
Austin Dillon 2 0 16.5 16.7
Kyle Larson 0 0 9.8 13.2
Denny Hamlin 14 0 19.2 12.6
Aric Almirola 0 0 23.9 26.2
Jimmie Johnson 595 0 12.7 11.0
Alex Bowman 0 0 27.7 32.0

Kevin Harvick dominated the spring race at Las Vegas, leading 214 laps en route to the win. However, he was penalized after his Ford was determined to have violations in the rear window area.

Harvick, who has led 380 laps in the last five races at Las Vegas, enters the postseason with 50 playoff points, which is tied with Kyle Busch for the most.

“It should be business as usual as you start this weekend and the goal is to win,” Harvick said. “Win the race in Las Vegas and go from there.”

Playoff Drivers at Las Vegas
Drivers ranked in playoff seeding order

Driver Spring Finish Avg. Fin. in Last 5 Laps Led in Last 5
Kyle Busch 2 9.8 100
Kevin Harvick 1 17.6 380
Martin Truex Jr. 4 6.4 159
Brad Keselowski 6 4.0 175
Clint Bowyer 18 18.8 0
Joey Logano 7 5.4 195
Kurt Busch 35 25.0 31
Chase Elliott 34 25.0 0
Ryan Blaney 5 9.2 1
Erik Jones 8 11.5 0
Austin Dillon 13 15.8 2
Kyle Larson 3 13.2 0
Denny Hamlin 17 11.8 0
Aric Almirola 10 19.8 0
Jimmie Johnson 12 14.6 174
Alex Bowman 16 32.0 0

Playoff Drivers at Richmond
Drivers ranked in playoff seeding order

Richmond shifts from the final race of the regular season to the second race in the playoffs this year.

Regular season champion Kyle Busch leads all the playoff drivers with five wins at the track and he won there in the spring.

Richmond Race Winners

Driver Races Wins Top 5s Top 10s
Kyle Busch 26 5 16 19
Kevin Harvick 35 3 13 22
Martin Truex Jr. 25 0 2 8
Brad Keselowski 18 1 4 8
Clint Bowyer 25 2 4 13
Joey Logano 19 2 8 11
Kurt Busch 35 2 7 15
Chase Elliott 6 0 1 2
Ryan Blaney 5 0 0 0
Erik Jones 3 0 0 1
Austin Dillon 9 0 0 0
Kyle Larson 9 1 2 3
Denny Hamlin 24 3 11 15
Aric Almirola 13 0 1 4
Jimmie Johnson 33 3 7 14
Alex Bowman 5 0 0 0

Denny Hamlin has posted the best average finish (4.0) in the last six races at Richmond, finishing sixth or better in that span, including a win in 2016 regular-season finale.

Hamlin ended the regular-season by equaling his best finish of the year for the fourth time, third.

“Our team has been competitive all season, so there’s not a doubt in my mind that we can make a run at the championship,” Hamlin said. “We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t think we had a chance …read more

Source:: MRN