THE PHOENIX FINALE: Matt’s NASCAR CUP CHAMPIONSHIP PREDICTIONS

The finale of the 2020 NASCAR Cup season comes this weekend, and with it comes bold predictions from all walks of legitimate sports media. And since legitimate sports media wasn’t available for this project, TehBen.com presents resident NASCAR writers MJBurroughs and MaxMan as they shoot their shot and make their call for what will unfold at the championship race!

By: MJBurroughs

Martinsville served as the final elimination race for the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff round of 8, and that’s exactly the way it should be going forward….(if we keep this points format that is), and there’s a growing conclave calling for that to change. Kevin Harvick, the season long favorite with nine race wins, missed out on transferring to the Championship 4 after a couple of less than perfect races in the round of 8, going out with a blaze of glory spinning out both Kyle Busch and himself trying to improve his position.

Chase Elliott however, comes into the final race riding high after a dominant MUST WIN (boy the NBC announcers certainly ran that shit into the ground) performance at Martinsville, and has all the momentum in the world after taking victory. Elliott will be alongside season-long standout Denny Hamlin, previous Cup Champs Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski as the “final four” in a winner-take-all race at Phoenix this weekend. I’ll get to my picks in a moment, but before we start, does the playoff format need to change?

My picks for the final four…I thought Harvick was the gimmie pick.

Back in 2003, Matt Kenseth won the final “Winston Cup” championship and everything was ruined forever. Kenseth was the mark of consistency winning only 1 race but getting an impossible amount of Top 10’s to stay ahead in points and win the championship over the much beloved Dale Earnhardt Jr (while Jimmie Johnson finished 2nd in points, Dale Jr was the narrative for most of the season). Dale Jr is a respected former driver and commentator in 2020, but back in 2003 the dude was the second coming of Jesus to a LARGE amount of NASCAR’s fanbase. Kenseth won the championship a whole race before the season’s end and the calls for change were massive. Further helped by the series sponsorship changing to Nextel, a new era was ushered in and the “Chase for the Cup” (later rebranded as The Playoffs) was born. Since 2004, we’ve been tweaking, adjusting, and ball twisting the format to find some unattainable perfection level of both excitement and merit. There are a million things I could go on about that are weird regarding the NASCAR playoffs: consistency, moments to drive too conservative, teammate tomfuckery… We’ve seen it all by now, but there’s no way to engineer any of it out. Let’s be real, no matter what there’s 30+ non-playoff drivers out on the track making an uncountable number of variables that could adjust playoff outcomes. Maybe we need to make sure the regular season champion makes it a certain length in the playoffs, or maybe we need to make an even larger number of bonus points for race wins…but no matter what we’re right back to tweaking the format based on the past instead of planning for the future. If the goal is guaranteed drama, the playoffs model is here to stay. Going back to a traditional points system might be an admission of failure that the governing body isn’t ready to make, so I think we’re stuck with SOME kind of playoffs for the foreseeable future. That being said, if you happen to be the CEO of a billion dollar company and you’re thinking about being a title sponsor for the series….it might be up to you to save us all…

Anyway, let’s talk about Phoenix!

My young ward Max is probably laying the statistics on pretty hard with his analysis, but I couldn’t resist looking up race wins by the final four drivers. Logano and Hamlin each have two wins at Phoenix while Kesolowski has 6 top 5s compared to Elliott’s 2 Top 5s….but everyone involved looks like they have what it takes to win the race. It’s REALLY tempting to go with the hot hand of Chase Elliott, but it’s also super hard to have the best race of your life on consecutive weeks. Hamlin is an even-money bet, but it seems like the month of November has never been kind to the future mogul of race team ownership. That brings us to the Penske pair. The high horsepower, lower downforce package is probably Penske’s best setup in 2020, and we could easily see a 1-2 finish that’ll make Rick Allen sing the praises of the organization that “did it right” over and over again. Anyway, enough waffling, its’ time for my picks. I’ll try to guess finishing order, but the picks really come down to who takes the flag:

Brad Keselowski – 19th
Denny Hamlin- 16th
Chase Elliott – 6th
Joey Logano – 1st Place and 2020 Cup Champion

2020 has been that kind of year, so both congratulations and my apologies to Logano Nation, he earned it, but it’ll break a lot of hearts.

Make sure you check out Max Man’s picks in the other TehBen article released today. I don’t know what the stakes were for this little bet, but either way I look forward to my complete and unquestioned victory. See y’all Sunday!

Follow Matt on Twitter for sodas, racing, and maybe even a couple hot takes!

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