It comes down to four races and eight drivers.
The Cup playoffs continue Sunday (2:30 p.m. ET, NBC) at Las Vegas Motor Speedway when the Round of 16 begins.
After last Sunday’s wild race finish at Charlotte Roval, eight drivers remain in the hunt for the Cup championship. In order of rating, they are Chase Elliott, Joey Logano, Ross Chastain, Christopher Bell, Ryan Blaney, William Byron, Denny Hamlin and Chase Briscoe.
The list has Hendrick Motorsports with two spots, Team Penske with two, Joe Gibbs Racing with two, and Stewart-Haas Racing and Trackhouse Racing with one each.
MORE: NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings
Bell made the round with a comeback win last Sunday at Charlotte, and Briscoe finished in last place with a late-race rally.
Where have the champions gone?
Of the eight drivers remaining in the championship chase, only two, Chase Elliott and Joey Logano, have Cup titles, Elliott winning in 2020 and Logano in 2018.
Defending champion Kyle Larson was eliminated from the playoffs last Sunday in Charlotte.
Three reigning champions – Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr. – didn’t qualify for the playoffs, Busch missed his shot due to injury. Former champions Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick departed in the Round of 16.
Welcome, young people
By average age, this season’s roster of eighth graders is the youngest, at 30.1, in playoff history.
At 24, William Byron is the young contender for the championship. The oldest, at 41, is Denny Hamlin. Aside from Hamlin and Logano (32), the field is made up of 20-year-olds.
MORE: Playoff grid reset after Charlotte win by Christopher Bell
Byron, Bell, Briscoe and Chastain are making their first Round of 16 appearances. Logano has been in the top eight eight times and is the leader in that category.
Calculation of the round of 8
Is there a favorite in the round of 16?
The numbers say it’s Denny Hamlin, now in his 17th full-time Cup season and still looking for his first championship.
Hamlin and Joey Logano are the only Round of 16 drivers with wins at each of the round’s three tracks: Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Homestead-Miami Speedway and Martinsville Speedway. Hamlin won once at Las Vegas, three times at Homestead and five times at Martinsville. No one else in the playoffs is close to that total.
Next up is Logano, with two wins at Las Vegas and one each at Homestead and Martinsville.
Ryan Blaney, Ross Chastain, Chase Briscoe and Christopher Bell are winless in any Cup Series Round of 16.
Thirty-six teams are entered in Sunday’s Cup race in Las Vegas. Xfinity raider AJ Allmendinger is on the roster.
List of registrants for the Las Vegas Cup
Thirty-eight entries are on the roster for Saturday’s Xfinity race (3 p.m. ET, NBC), including Hailie Deegan, Trevor Bayne, John Hunter Nemechek and Jeffrey Earnhardt.
List of Las Vegas Xfinity tickets
Schedule and forecast for this week
(All Eastern eras)
Friday, October 14
Forecast: Sunny. Maximum of 92.
20:35 – 21:05 — Xfinity Practice (US Network)
9:05 PM – 10:00 PM — Xfinity Rating (USA Network)
Saturday, October 15
Forecast: Sunny. Maximum of 90.
12:05 – 12:50 — Cup Practice (NBC Sports App, USA Network coverage begins at 12:30)
12:50 – 14:00 — Cup Qualifying (USA Network)
3 p.m. – Xfinity Race (201 laps, 301 miles; NBC, Peacock, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
Sunday, October 16
Forecast: Mostly sunny. Maximum of 85.
2:30 p.m. — Cup Race (267 laps, 400 miles; NBC, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)