No different than any other season when the NASCAR Cup Series playoff grid is finally set, people love to anoint a driver as the championship favorite. While this year’s obvious choice is Kyle Larson — who led the series in virtually every major statistical category in the regular season — the driver of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy is reluctant to proclaim himself the man to beat. In fact, just within Hendrick Motorsports, there are three other drivers — Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman and William Byron — who Larson believes are capable of a title run.
“I think everybody has had their moments of being really strong this year,” Larson said after winning the regular season championship last weekend at Daytona. “I think the three other Hendrick drivers — my teammates — are going to be really tough. I think I look at obviously Denny (Hamlin), Martin (Truex Jr.), Kyle Busch as probably being the three others besides our team that stand out.” Busch, who along with Truex and Hamlin compete for Hendrick rival Joe Gibbs Racing, doesn’t seem to believe there’s a clear-cut favorite. As for where he stacks up?
“Top five probably, I’d say,” Busch said. “Any of the four Hendrick cars are really good. Three of them are really good. Denny has been fast a lot of weeks. We’ve been fast a lot of weeks as well, too. Sometimes you don’t always have to be the fastest car; you just have to have the right push to win. That’s how we won our race in Kansas earlier this year. There can be surprise moments any time.”