There are only three spots remaining for the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, and Saturday night’s race at Richmond will determine which three drivers earn those spots.
For now, Chase Elliott, Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray would round out the field. But if a winless driver picks up their first win of the season on Saturday and they’re in the top 30 of the standings, one of those three would be knocked out of the field.
The most dangerous contender lurking is rookie Erik Jones. Jones has three straight top-5 and five straight top-10 finishes and he has been on the cusp of his first career win. If he did win, it would likely knock McMurray out, though Kenseth and Elliott are both technically in danger of losing their spots if they have a bad race.
Joey Logano won at Richmond earlier this season, but it was an encumbered victory, and he has struggled since that win.
Clint Bowyer failed to finish last week, but he is just one spot behind McMurray and could piece together one great race to knock someone out of the field.
The 13 driver locked into the field are Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman, Austin Dillon, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kasey Kahne, Ryan Blaney and Kurt Busch.
Of course, all eyes will be on Dale Earnhardt Jr. as he attempts to qualify for the playoffs one last time. He hasn’t had a had a great season, but it’s possible for him to figure out a way to win in his last regular season race.
The odds are in the favor of Elliott, Kenseth and McMurray maintaining their current positions, but anything can happen once the green flag is waved.
(h/t Charlotte Observer)