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The Round of 12 in the 2019 NASCAR Playoffs begins Sunday on the Monster Mile of Dover International Speedway’s high-banked concrete layout. Four drivers have been eliminated after not winning or accumulating enough points to advance.

That leaves us with 12 drivers to battle it out over the next three races between Dover, Talladega, and Kansas where four more drivers will be eventually chopped.

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There weren’t many surprises chopped in the Round of 16, but this is the round where things get interesting with a possible Cinderella story developing and pressure mounting for stars that have a bad race over the next three — Talladega’s volatility scares the daylights out of big stars in this round.

William Byron and Clint Bowyer both have the longest odds (80-1) to win the championship according to odds posted at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, and neither has won a race this season. But both are running extremely well right now. The same can be said for Kyle Larson, but he’s priced at 14-1 odds.

Martin Truex Jr. enters this round with a series-leading six wins on the season and is currently the 4-1 favorite to win the championship. He won the first race at Dover in May and he won the first two races of the last round. This track is considered his home track and it’s the place where he grabbed his first career Cup win in 2007.

Kyle Busch also has a nice cushion that should help the blow if wrecking in one of the races. He comes in at 9-2 to win the title, but of all the upper echelon drivers, he might be feeling the most anxiety of them all after getting four wins quickly within his first 14 starts of 2019, but that June 2 win at Pocono in June was his last win. Sunday’s Dover race will be the 30th of the season, a place where he’s a three-time winner with 12 top-five finishes in 29 Cup starts.

Dover is unlike any other track on the circuit and while there are two other 1-mile track the series races on, both Phoenix and New Hampshire are flat and irrelevant in comparisons. However, Bristol’s high-banked half-mile layout which also uses concrete as a surface requires a similar set-up.

Kyle Busch is the active leader with eight Bristol wins, the last coming on April 7 and he’d finish the next time around in August. He was 10th in the first Dover in May.

Chase Elliott started this round off last season with his first Dover win and he was fifth there in the May race after leading a race-high 145 laps. His 4.4 average finish between seven Dover events makes it his best statistical track among those he has raced on at least three times. He won last week at Charlotte and has top-fives in three of his last four starts using this week’s race package with engines producing 750 horsepower.

Elliott’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman was the last driver to qualify for the last round and raced to a runner-up finish as though this life depended on it. Desperation brought out the best in him, and he’s got a couple of things going for him this week.

First is being Elliott’s teammate with some note sharing, and the other top reason is that he was runner-up in the May Dover race behind Truex. The HMS driver still alive in the playoffs is William Byron who finished eighth at Dover this season.

The all-time best at Dover is HMS driver Jimmie Johnson with 11 wins who didn’t qualify for the postseason for the first time in his career. He was ninth last week on the Roval and 14th at Dover in May. His crew should also have access to the solid notes his teammates have for this track, but working with a crew chief other than Chad Knaus his season for the first time in Cup career has had a negative effect. Knaus is now crew chief for Byron. 

Larson has five top-five finishes in 11 Dover starts and has averaged an eighth-place finish overall and has led 463 laps. This has always been a great track for him. No wins, but runner-up twice. He started third and finished third in the May race.

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