Four NASCAR analysts gave predictions for sleeper picks for the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, and two of them—Dale Jarrett and Nate Ryan—picked the same driver.
Jarrett and Ryan both believe Kurt Busch has the potential to pull off a few upsets and win his second career cup championship.
Busch had three consecutive top-5 finishes to end the regular season. Jarrett believes Busch and his team have “found something” down the stretch.
“He wasn’t someone until the last month that I was paying attention to, but they have seemed to have found something,” Jarrett said. “Even though I still don’t put him really among the favorites to win the championship, they’ve run well enough to get high on my radar and to think with his experience, how he runs well at pretty much any type of track, that maybe they found something that other Fords haven’t been able to right now.”
Ryan shared a similar sentiment with Jarrett, and he believes Busch’s unclear contract status for 2018 is providing extra motivation for him.
“(Busch) suddenly seems to have found another gear the past few weeks, and he has much to stay motivated about during the playoffs,” Ryan said. “Whether it’s his 2018 contract status, the future of crew chief Tony Gibson (who might be on his last hurrah) or the pride of proving the Daytona 500 victory wasn’t an anomaly, it’ll be easy to tap into a driving force over the final 10 races.”
Busch won the first race of the season at Daytona, and he has 13 top-10 finishes this season.
Analyst Steve Letarte picked Ryan Blaney as his sleeper, while Dustin Long picked Matt Kenseth despite Kenseth not having a win this season.
The playoffs begin on Sunday, Sept. 17 at Chicagoland.
(h/t NBC Sports)