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Opinion: Best of the Rest

The odds of a non-playoff driver winning one of the final six races in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season are long.

As the schedule winds down and the intensity of the playoffs increases, the list of those capable of stealing the championship spotlight is difficult to compile. Obviously that number will increase as eliminations continue through the two rounds before the Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

But who among those that have not won a race here are the best candidates to find Victory Lane before the clock runs out on the 2019 season?

Matt DiBenedetto
His breakout season with Leavine Family Racing would go out with a big bang if DiBenedetto could pull off his first career Cup win. He’s come close a couple of times and it’s not out of the realm of possibility DiBenedetto pulls off the upset. This week’s trip to Talladega may be his best shot not because of the perceived randomness of speedway racing but because DiBenedetto has proven to be more than adept at the style of racing.

Jimmie Johnson
Kyle Larson broke out of his more than two year winless drought with his Dover victory last week but Johnson’s drought continues. The seven-time champion last won in the spring of 2017 but he appears to be at least getting closer in the second half of this season. Johnson does have 11 top-10 finishes with his latest coming last week at Dover. The Hendrick Motorsports intermediate track program has been solid, which bodes well for Johnson having a shot at Kansas, Texas and Homestead with those three 1.5-mile tracks left on the calendar.

Daniel Suarez
After just missing the playoff cut, Suarez is battling both trying to win his first cup race as well as determining his future with Stewart-Haas Racing. He said over the weekend those negotiations have taken an optimistic turn and certainly winning wouldn’t hurt the cause. Suarez has 10 top-10 finishes but has fallen on frustrating times in recent weeks. He was third in the first visit to Texas and next month’s return to should provide an excellent opportunity for career win number one.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
There hasn’t been much for Stenhouse Jr. to celebrate this year in a season that helped lead to his dismissal from Roush Fenway Racing. He has six races left with the team to find a third career win and the obvious best shot comes at Talladega where he won in 2017. Stenhouse Jr. actually has four top-five finishes in the last six races at the Alabama track and he led 16 laps in April before exiting the race in a multi-car accident.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.