Daniel McFadin

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Staff picks for today’s Cup race at Kansas Speedway

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Here’s a look at who the NBC Sports staff is picking to win today’s Cup race at Kansas Speedway.

Nate Ryan

Kevin Harvick. His first oval win since Kansas Speedway a year ago validates the team’s 1.5-mile speed in the playoffs.

Dustin Long

Kyle Busch. Mark it down, he wins and advances to the next round to continue his quest for a second title.

Daniel McFadin

Martin Truex Jr. keeps his foot on the throat of the competition and gets his sixth win of the year at a 1.5-mile track.

Jerry Bonkowski

Kyle Larson is starting 13th but expect him to get to the top five within the first 20-30 laps. He needs a strong run to give him momentum heading into the Round of 8 and he gets it Sunday.

Staff picks for today’s Cup race at Talladega

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Here’s a look at who the NBC Sports staff is picking to win today’s Cup race at Talladega SuperSpeedway.

Nate Ryan

Dale Earnhardt Jr. He goes out at Talladega the same way his father did, 17 years later to the day.

Dustin Long

Landon Cassill. Days after finding out he won’t be back with Front Row Motorsports, he wins as Ford continues to dominate restrictor-plate racing.

Daniel McFadin

Dale Earnhardt Jr. does what Jeff Gordon did in 2015 (Martinsville) and Tony Stewart in 2016 (Sonoma) and earns his potential last Cup win at the one track you would expect him to.

Jerry Bonkowski

Brad Keselowski. If not him, look for another Ford driver to take the checkered flag.

Staff picks for today’s Cup race at Charlotte

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Here’s a look at who the NBC Sports staff is picking to win today’s Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Nate Ryan

Martin Truex Jr. By opening the second round with his second victory of the playoffs, he puts everyone on notice for Talladega Superspeedway next week.

Dustin Long

Kyle Busch. He nearly won the Coca-Cola 600 in May but will win today to score his first Cup points victory at this track.

Daniel McFadin

Kevin Harvick gets just his second win of the year and his fourth in Charlotte since 2011.

Jerry Bonkowski

Brad Keselowski. While I still think Matt Kenseth is going to win a race during the playoffs, and Charlotte would be a good place to do it, my gut tells me to go with Keselowski Sunday.

Bump & Run: What driver to watch in Round of 12?

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What driver are you keeping a close eye on in this round?

Nate Ryan: Kyle Busch. Charlotte Motor Speedway isn’t a must-win for him (though he has made no secret he wants to win it so he can cross the last remaining active track off his list that he hasn’t conquered), but it’ll be important to get off to a good start because Talladega Superspeedway is forever an X factor, and he historically has struggled at Kansas in the playoffs (though he did break through for a win in May 2016). Playoff points should help ensure that Busch advances to the Round of 8 regardless, but this round would be his “weakest” if there is such a thing for one of NASCAR’s most talented stars.

Dustin Long: Kevin Harvick. I want to see how this team does on the 1.5-mile tracks (Charlotte and Kansas) in this round and if it can close the gap on the Toyotas and Kyle Larson. Don’t overlook this team.

Daniel McFadin: I’ll be looking at Chase Elliott. Did having another win slip through his fingers light a fire under him or take the air out of him and his team?

Jerry Bonkowski: Matt Kenseth. The second round of the playoffs could potentially be the sweet spot he’s been looking for. A win at Charlotte or Talladega puts him into the Round of 8. He needs to win either of the first two races because he doesn’t want to wait until the final race of the second round — at Kansas. Because of the uncertainty at Talladega, Kenseth’s best hope for a win comes Sunday at Charlotte.

What is a storyline you’ll be watching this round?

Nate Ryan: Talladega as the middle race for the first time instead of a cutoff (a smart move, by the way). Should eliminate any plans for sandbagging (unless it’s the winner of the Kansas race or someone such as Truex who might have enough points to make the race mostly meaningless).

Dustin Long: Pit strategy. It played a key role at Dover in helping Ricky Stenhouse Jr. advance to this round. I want to see which crew chiefs are willing to take chances to score stage points or put themselves on a different strategy than the leaders this round.

Daniel McFadin: Has Hendrick Motorsports gotten its groove back? Or was the case of three of its cars finishing in the top 10 just a blip due to Dover being one of Jimmie Johnson‘s and Chase Elliott’s best tracks?

Jerry Bonkowski: Can Jimmie Johnson come back? He looked much like the JJ of old at Dover. If his team is starting to peak, it couldn’t be at a better time in the second round. One win at Charlotte and he’s on to the third round. Johnson loves pressure, coming from behind and is one of the best when it comes to rallying. Frankly, he could be in a perfect position right now to start the stretch run to a record eighth Cup championship.

Who has a better chance of winning Talladega: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who has won the past two restrictor-plate races or Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Nate Ryan: Based off recent history, Stenhouse is a slight favorite, but Earnhardt Jr. has been much better in plate races the past few seasons, and a win wouldn’t be a surprise (and also would be the best storyline NASCAR could desire).

Dustin Long: Provided Dale Earnhardt Jr. can get to the front and stay there, he has the experience in blocking both lanes and keeping the rest of the field behind him.

Daniel McFadin: While Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has the last two plate wins, Dale Jr. is always the biggest threat. He had the speed to run at the front in all three plate races this year before misfortune struck every time. I’ll put my money on Dale Jr. using every trick in the book to keep the field behind him one last time.

Jerry Bonkowski: From a sentimental standpoint, I’d love to see Dale Jr. win. What better place to earn the final Cup win of his career than at his most successful track. With two restrictor-plate wins this season, Stenhouse is definitely one of the top contenders. However, there’s a potential spoiler that I would not be surprised could steal away a win from both of them at ‘Dega: Brad Keselowski.

Staff picks for today’s Cup race at Dover

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Here’s a look at who the NBC Sports staff is picking to win today’s Cup race at Dover International Speedway.

Nate Ryan

Martin Truex Jr. He has led 35 percent of the last two Cup races here. He will add another few hundred laps to that total from the pole today.

Dustin Long

Kyle Larson grabs the win he nearly had at this track in June.

Daniel McFadin

Matt Kenseth seals the deal and gets his first win of the season.

Jerry Bonkowski

Matt Kenseth has been knocking on the door for his first win of 2017 for the last several races. Today, he kicks that door down and drives into victory lane.