Whether it’s March Madness, the NFL playoffs, NASCAR or something else, everyone loves a good Cinderella story. So will there be a driver or multiple drivers who seemingly come out of nowhere in this year’s Cup Series playoffs to make a deep run and possibly even pose a legitimate championship threat?
Based on past seasons and this year’s regular season, virtually everyone would probably agree that Tyler Reddick, Michael McDowell, Aric Almirola and Christopher Bell are this year’s biggest playoff underdogs. For Reddick, McDowell and Bell, it’s their first trip to the Cup Series playoffs. Almirola has been here before, but aside from an out-of-nowhere playoff-clinching win at New Hampshire in July, he’s endured one of the worst seasons of his Cup career.
“I’m just really happy to be going to the playoffs,” Almirola conceded. “It’s been a tough season for us, so to get that win at New Hampshire was huge, and we’ll go these next 10 weeks and maximize our days and execute with perfection and just do everything we can to score all the points we can and try and win a race here or there. We’ll see.” Similarly, Bell considers himself far from one of the favorites. “We are at a points deficit,” said Bell, who begins the playoffs seeded 13th out of the 16 drivers. “We were able to win one race early on in the year, but that was really it. From that point on, we haven’t been able to get any more bonus points.”