The War Room picks the biggest surprises from the first nine playoff races

Larry McReynolds, Andy Petree, Jeff Gordon, and Michael Waltrip make their picks for the biggest surprise of the 2017 NASCAR Playoffs

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- So when there's a championship on the line, we know that anything can happen, and it usually does, particularly in those first nine weeks. So, Larry, when you look back on the races that have got us to this point, biggest surprise for you is what?

- Well, when I look at these first three rounds, to me there's a lot of surprises. But to me, the one that just jumps out at me is that 42 car of Kyle Larson because I know in my own personal bracket, I know in some of the previous War Rooms before we got to the round of 12, we had Kyle Larson over here at Homestead-Miami Speedway. And to know he won the last race of the regular season at Richmond, pretty solid in the round of 16. But the wheel just ran off. And now he's sitting here in the last four races with four DNFs. Just, to me, that's the one that jumps out at me.

- Who would have believed four consecutive DNF for a driver that many believed could win the championship in 2017? What's your biggest surprise, [INAUDIBLE]?

- Yeah, including me, I was really a Kyle Larson fan going into this thinking that he was going to be able to make it to Homestead fairly easily, right? He built up all those points, those bonus points, and looked like he was going to have some cushion to get there. It didn't happen, and it's almost like they turned the light switch off over there. And to go along with that, probably my biggest surprise is not having any Chevrolets in the final four. And that was the one I think that they were hanging their hat on. But then you got Jimmy Johnson and Chase Elliott that still had great chances of moving on to the final four. They didn't make it. So now we have basically the Toyotas versus the Fords.

- Perfect segue to Jeff Gordon. No Chevrolet's going to Miami to run for a championship. Is that your biggest surprise or is something else out there for you, Jeff?

- Well, I think the big surprise to me when I look is maybe the 21 team making it to the round of eight. I think Ryan Blaney, I give him a lot of credit. Great, great job, great qualifying efforts. Getting those stage points I think played a big role in that for him to get there. He wanted to get himself into the playoffs, but then to actually advance all the way to round eight was pretty impressive.

- Some really good story lines here. You talk about the 42 of Kyle Larson, the Chevrolets not making it to the championship race, Ryan Blaney and his good playoff run. What direction are you going, Michael? Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott eliminating themselves effectively from the championship battle. Denny ran into Chase at Martinsville. That ended his hopes. And then Chase said, OK, well, it's time to pay you back, brother. And neither one of those guys are going to go to Miami for a chance to win. I think a couple of guys all throughout the season we saw had plenty of speed to be in the final four. But you make somebody mad in NASCAR, there's a chance they're going to retaliate. And I think that's what we saw. That surprised me the most.

- I think I look at, for me, Matt Kenseth, the way he was eliminated with the pit road penalty, I think that was surprising to me, and just the speed we've seen out of Kevin Harvick since the playoffs actually began.

- I think the other big surprise has got to be Jimmy Johnson not making it to the championship four. A lot of brackets didn't have him when we began the playoffs.

- Andy did.

- But hey, but everyone said if he can get to the round of eight-- if he gets to the round of eight, Martinsville, Texas, and Phoenix, he's a shoe in. And that team certainly did not execute the way they would have liked to in the round of eight. And thus, they'll have to put that eight championship on hold.

- Well, I want to add one more, that Brad Keselowski is over there.

- He is.

- He didn't have it look like the speed to be [INAUDIBLE].

- No where near enough speed.

- How did he get here?

- He said himself, I don't have the speed to get there, went out, defied the odds, and is a part of the championship equation.

- But I think you actually brought up one of the big surprises, just out of the whole year, was the 48. To win the championship last year, they didn't go do that on pure speed. But they did make it to the final for on speed and winning races. And then this year, they have won races, but not the typical 48 type of season.

- Four top five finishes total all year. I know three of them were wins. And back to the Chevrolet deal-- I don't know if you realize this, Jeff-- this is the first time since 2003, the year before the playoffs that Chevrolet will not have a player in some shape, form, or fashion in the championship hunt.

- It's been an amazing run, 16 to four.


And when we return, we're going to break down those four drivers starting with the Toyotas of Kyle Busch, who won the championship in 2015, and Martin Truex Jr., who's looking for his first.

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