The NASCAR Sprint Cup champion will be …

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It’s finally done. The Chase is here, and everybody who won a race in 2015 is in – plus a few other stragglers. Now we can focus on a more pertinent question:  Who is going to win the title? We have the numbers to break it down.

Based on driver performance in 2013-2015, along with their seedings, we can predict who will win the title – along with a prediction for which drivers will make it through each round. The numbers will be updated each week as we get new results.

Paul Menard and Clint Bowyer, the last two drivers to make the Chase are still … on … the … bubble. Of the 16 drivers who made it, these two had the lowest chance of getting in. And they are now rewarded with the lowest chances of moving on. Each of them has a coin flip’s chance of moving forward or being bounced out.

Chase Odds 1

The most likely driver to make it to Round 2 is Joey Logano – at 94 percent.

THE TOP FIVE

The five drivers with the best chance at the title are Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. In total, there is a 70 percent chance that one of these five will be the champion. That’s in line with the fact that these drivers won 15 of the first 26 races this year.

DON’T BE OVERLY OPTIMISTIC ON GIBBS

We’ve also compared our model’s projections to what Vegas thinks will happen, allowing you to find undervalued bets. Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. are the best “value” bets, because Vegas doesn’t think they are as good as we do.

In contrast, Vegas appears to be overpaying for Martin Truex Jr, along with all four Joe Gibbs cars: Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, and Denny Hamlin. Each of these drivers is at least 6 percent worse in our model compared to the bettors.

“It looks like Vegas is really, really high on all of the Gibbs cars compared to our model, probably because of their recent late-summer stretch,” said Andrew Maness of racing analytics firm Pit Rho. He and I designed this model together to predict season outcomes.

Maness continued: “What I don’t like about that type of bet is the Chase renders late-summer success pretty irrelevant. We can’t count on Gibbs being the top team in November.

“A historical instance worth pointing out, Vegas was really into Hendrick cars at the start of the 2014 Chase, and many folks wondered if all four HMS cars would advance to the final round. But they were missing by Homestead – the current Chase format really jumbles things up every few weeks, regardless of which cars have speed.”

Also note: if you add up all the odds on Vegas betting, you get 134 percent. It’s higher than 100% because it reflects the fees the sportsbook makes.

STRENGTH IN NUMBERS

Our prediction numbers from last week were spot on, and the drivers who got in were the ones we said would, with a giant 17 point cushion between who was in and who was out – led by Aric Almirola. In fact, our numbers had the 16-driver field set ever since Pocono the first weekend in August. That’s when Kasey Kahne finished 43rd to find himself on the outside looking in, and there was no change to the Chase field afterward. Each week we will update the numbers, as the Chase progresses, to show who is on track to win the title in Homestead.

Eric Chemi runs data journalism for our sister network CNBC, including a heavy dose of sports analytics. Prior to that, his NASCAR analytics have been part of television broadcasts, and he has consulted for Sprint Cup teams on strategy, statistics, data, and analytics. He graduated with an engineering degree from MIT. You can follow him on Twitter @ericchemi.

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Xfinity race results, point standings after Bristol

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Chase Briscoe led the final six laps and won Friday night’s Xfinity Series race at Bristol for his seventh win of the season.

Briscoe beat Ross Chastain for the win. The top five was completed by Austin Cindric, Harrison Burton and Justin Allgaier.

Click here for the race results.

Playoff standings

The 12-driver field for the playoffs has been set with Briscoe’s win in the regular-season finale.

Brandon Brown placed 12th and clinched the 12th and final spot.

Here are the re-seeded point standings entering the playoffs.

Chase Briscoe – 2,050 points

Austin Cindric – 2,050

Justin Allgaier – 2,033

Noah Gragson – 2,025

Brandon Jones – 2,020

Justin Haley – 2,018

Harrison Burton – 2,014

Ross Chastain – 2,010

Ryan Sieg – 2,002

Michael Annett – 2,002

Riley Herbst – 2,001

Brandon Brown – 2,000

Click here for the re-seeded standings.

Click here for the normal point standings.

Chase Briscoe wins Xfinity race at Bristol Motor Speedway

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Chase Briscoe took the lead with six laps to go and won Friday night’s Xfinity Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway, which marked the end of the regular season.

Briscoe passed Austin Cindric to assume the lead and went unchallenged to the checkered flag. The victory is his series-leading seventh of the season.

“I was so mad after last week (at Richmond),” Briscoe told NBCSN. “I told all the guys there ain’t no way we’re getting beat today. I was so mad after how we ran last week and I get on the internet all the time and see guys count us out after one bad race and I know what this team is capable. … I finished second here the last two races and I wanted to win here so bad and it’s awesome that I can actually celebrate it with all these race fans.”

The top five was completed by Ross Chastain, Cindric, Harrison Burton and Justin Allgaier.

More: Race results, playoff standings

Allgaier dominated the early portion of the race, leading 126 laps and winning the first two stages. But he lost the lead for good in the pits during the Stage 2 break.

Brandon Brown finished 12th and clinched the 12th and final playoff spot.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Justin Allgaier

STAGE 2 WINNER: Justin Allgaier

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Ross Chastain led three times for 117 laps, but had to settle for his fifth runner-up finish of the season without a win … Austin Cindric earned his 13th top-10 finish in the last 14 races … Harrison Burton earned his 13th top five of the season.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Brett Moffitt finished 27th after he had to pit three times in the opening laps and was penalized for taking fuel before the competition caution … BJ McLeod finished 34th after he was eliminated in a multi-car wreck that began when he made contact with teammate Jeffrey EarnhardtMichael Annett finished 31st and Joe Graf Jr. placed 27th after they were involved in an incident on Lap 120.

QUOTE OF THE RACE: “I hit pit road and I wanted to cry.” – Ross Chastain after he finished second for the fifth time this year. He is winless entering the playoffs.

WHAT’S NEXT: The Xfinity playoffs open at Las Vegas Motor Speedway at 7:30 p.m. ET on Sept. 26 on NBCSN.

 

Fans not allowed at Las Vegas races

Fans not allowed
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Spectators will be not be allowed for any of the NASCAR playoff races next weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the track announced Friday night.

A press release said only essential personnel will be allowed to attend the Cup, Xfinity and Truck playoff races there.

“To say we’re disappointed that we will conduct the South Point 400 playoff weekend without fans would be a gross understatement,” said Las Vegas Motor Speedway President Chris Powell. “Our staff has been working – many of them remotely – since the February Pennzoil 400 to prepare the speedway for our playoff tripleheader.

“But we must adhere to Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak’s directive that limits gatherings due to COVID-19.  While we disagree with this policy, we have no choice but to oblige.  We certainly regret this situation for the thousands of race fans who won’t be able to attend our NASCAR-weekend events.”

Nevada’s re-opening plan does not permit fans at sporting events, concerts. Groups are limited to 50 or fewer people.

The Las Vegas Raiders announced last month that they would not have fans at any of the team’s home games in its inaugural season there.

The Truck playoff race will be at 9 p.m. ET Sept. 25 on FS1. The Xfinity playoff opener will be at  7:30 p.m. ET Sept. 26 on NBCSN. The Cup playoff race will be 7 p.m. ET Sept. 27 on NBCSN.

Fans holding tickets for those events will be contacted by the speedway ticket services department to discuss credits for future races or refunds.

Pit crew change for Alex Bowman, Jimmie Johnson teams

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Hendrick Motorsports teammates Alex Bowman and Jimmie Johnson each will have a pit crew change for Saturday night’s playoff race at Bristol.

The change is the result of an injury to one pit crew member.

Dustin Lineback, jackman for Bowman’s team is out with an injury, the team stated. Kyle Tudor, who has been Johnson’s jackman, moves over to that role for Bowman’s team. Eric Ludwig, a backup for Hendrick Motorsports, moves up to be the jackman for Johnson.

MORE: Saturday Cup race at Bristol: Start time, forecast, lineup

Bowman enters the elimination race 27 points ahead of teammate William Byron, the first driver outside a transfer spot to the second round. Bowman opened the playoffs by finishing sixth in the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. He followed that by placing ninth at Richmond. Bowman was collected in a crash and finished 37th in the May Bristol race.

Johnson, who is in his final full-time Cup season, seeks his first victory of the season. He finished third at Bristol in May.