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2018 NASCAR playoffs preview: Drivers, format, races and odds

Sporting News — (Arthur Weinstein)

For NASCAR drivers, it comes down to this: 10 races to determine the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup champion.

NASCAR's playoffs begin Sept. 16 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Forget all the talk you've heard about the "Big Three," of Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex, who combined to win 17 of the season's first 26 races. While they certainly go in as the favorites, any of the 16 drivers in the playoff field can potentially win. Mechanical failures happen. Crashes happen (Talladega's "Big One" can ruin anyone's championship dreams).

Here's a look at the NASCAR playoffs drivers, the format, schedule and odds.

NASCAR Playoff Standings

DriverPointsPts BehindPlayoff Pts
1. Kyle Busch2050Leader50
2. Kevin Harvick2050---50
3. Martin Truex Jr.20351535
4. Brad Keselowski20193119
5. Clint Bowyer20153515
6. Joey Logano20143614
7. Kurt Busch20143614
8. Chase Elliott2008428
9. Ryan Blaney2007437
10. Erik Jones2005455
11. Austin Dillon2005455
12. Kyle Larson2005455
13. Denny Hamlin2003473
14. Aric Almirola2001491
15. Jimmie Johnson   2000500
16. Alex Bowman2000500

NASCAR Playoff Races

RaceDateTime (ET)
1. Las Vegas Motor SpeedwaySept. 163 p.m.
2. Richmond RacewaySept. 227:30 p.m.
3. Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval   Sept. 302 p.m.
4. Dover International SpeedwayOct. 72 p.m.
5. Talladega SuperspeedwayOct.142 p.m.
6. Kansas SpeedwayOct. 212 p.m.
7. Martinsville SpeedwayOct. 282:30 p.m.
8. Texas Motor SpeedwayNov. 43 p.m.
9. ISM Raceway (Phoenix)Nov. 112:30 p.m.
10. Homestead-Miami SpeedwayNov. 182:30 p.m.

NASCAR Playoff Format

Four drivers will be eliminated from the playoffs after every three races, with the cutoff races at Charlotte, Kansas and Phoenix. The points are reset after each three-race round. The four remaining "Championship 4" drivers will then race head to head for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup championship at Homestead, with the top finisher of that group taking the title. Playoff points — which were accumulated during the year for winning races, race stages and finishing in the regular-season top 10 — are added to a driver’s points total at the start of every round of the playoffs.

NASCAR Playoff Odds

Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick begin the playoffs as the co-favorites among sportsbooks at 9-4 odds, with Austin Dillon and Alex Bowman (500-1) the real longshots, but again, crazy things can happen in the postseason.

Kevin Harvick9-4
Kyle Busch9-4
Martin Truex Jr.9-2
Kyle Larson10-1
Brad Keselowski12-1
Chase Elliott12-1
Clint Bowyer15-1
Joey Logano20-1
Denny Hamlin20-1
Kurt Busch25-1
Erik Jones25-1
Ryan Blaney30-1
Aric Almirola50-1
Jimmie Johnson60-1
Austin Dillon500-1
Alex Bowman500-1