Watch: Prepping for Charlotte and the playoffs' fourth race

Three races in, four drivers gone. Welcome to Yahoo Sports’ NASCAR Playoff rundown. We’re on to Charlotte!

The first round of the playoffs wrapped last Sunday, with Kyle Busch slithering in and swiping a win right out from under the nose of The Future of NASCAR, aka Chase Elliott. If you’re a fan of Chase or his dad, Awesome Bill, it was a heartbreaking scene. But at least Chase gets another three cracks at a playoff win.

Not so lucky were four other drivers – Austin Dillon, Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne, and Ryan Newman – who fell on the wrong side of the cut line got the boot. No real surprises there, although Newman came within a hairsbreadth of knocking out Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for the 12th and final slot. Newman has punched his way through the postseason before, so consider this a bit of karmic payback.

The series now shifts to Charlotte, the closest thing NASCAR has to a home field. This marks the last playoff race on Charlotte’s oval; next year, the race will combine both the track and an infield road course. We’re sure that won’t lead to any driver rage at all.

So who’s going to win this week? It’s too easy to pick Kyle Busch or Martin Truex Jr., so we’ll dig a little deeper into the field and go with Mr. Seven-Time, Jimmie Johnson. Charlotte is’ one of the 48’s best tracks; he won this race last year. Johnson’s hunt for an eighth title hasn’t gone well, but a win this weekend would make up for a lot of weak finishes this year.

We’ll wrap with our ups and downs after Dover. We’re going to go ahead and give an up to Chase Elliott, because we feel so dang bad that he didn’t get that first career win. Down, on the other hand, goes to this show car driver, who ended a promotional event at the NASCAR Hall of Fame by getting run over by an SUV. Come on, where was his spotter?


Enjoy Charlotte, everyone. And remember to keep an eye on your rear-view mirror … Kyle Busch might be gaining on you.

Kyle Busch won again in Dover. (AP)

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.