Is there a playoff favorite? Depends on whom you ask

RICHMOND, VA - SEPTEMBER 09: Chase Elliott, driver of the #24 Mountain Dew Chevrolet,, Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 DOW Chevrolet,, Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M's Caramel Toyota, Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota, Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford, Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Hurricane Harvey Relief Toyota, Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 McDonald's Chevrolet, Ryan Blaney, driver of the #21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford, Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Great Clips Chevrolet, Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Ford, Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John's Ford, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the #17 Fastenal Ford, and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, pose for a photo after making the playoffs following the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway on September 9, 2017 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Regular-season champion Martin Truex Jr. says it’s hard to pick a favorite in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoff.

Kyle Busch disagrees.

“With the way the system is set up, I don’t know that you can have a favorite, honestly,” Truex said on Wednesday during playoff media day interviews at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. “I mean, this has got to be the toughest championship in sports to win, without a question.

“With the eliminations, with one race for the championship at the end especially, you’re not out there one on one. There’s 39 other cars, and you’re racing against three of them. So, yeah, I mean, it’s got to be the toughest one there is. I don’t really know if you can have a favorite.”

Then Busch was asked if he thought there was a favorite for the championship as the playoffs begin Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN). He had a one-word answer.


Though Busch and Kyle Larson have been the only two drivers this season able to challenge Truex on a consistent basis, Busch had concrete reasons for installing Truex as the man to beat.

“I mean, there’s no question why you can’t put him ahead of us,” Busch said. “The reason I say that is because if you look at every single race during the year, (other than) maybe one or two instances here or there, Truex is either first or second, or first, second or third. You look at Larson. If he’s not first, he’s like fourth to eighth.

“I feel like us, if we’re not first, we’re fourth to sixth. Truex is always first or second. His average is always higher than what ours might be. If we’re having an off day, our off day is sixth to eighth, whatever it is. Larson’s off day is sixth to eighth, whatever it is. The off day for the 78 (Truex) is, like, second. That’s just how good they’ve been.”

Greg Engle
About Greg Engle 7421 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.