Sunday’s Southern 500 made the playoff picture clearer, but not every driver in the 16-team field has secured a bid to the postseason yet.
Martin Truex Jr. clinched the regular season championship at Darlington Raceway, fand he earned 15 additional playoff points for the regular season title. Denny Hamlin won his second race of the season, so he had already clinched his spot prior to Sunday’s win.
The other 11 drivers locked into the field are Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Blaney, Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Austin Dillon and Kasey Kahne.
If the playoffs started this week, Chase Elliott, Matt Kenseth, and Jamie McMurray would round out the field. They are the only three drivers who can qualify for the playoffs based on points as none of them have a win this season.
That means drivers such as Clint Bowyer, Erik Jones, Joey Logano and Daniel Suarez will have to win Sunday at Richmond Raceway to make the postseason. There are 17 drivers who can qualify with a win, and McMurray would likely be the driver who was left out if someone behind him in the points won on Sunday.
Sunday is Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s last chance to make the postseason, and he is currently No. 22 in the points. Unless something unexpected happens, he will miss out on the playoffs in his final season.
Logano won earlier this year at Richmond, but the win was deemed an encumbered victory due to Logano’s car failing the post-race inspection. So the win didn’t count towards the postseason, and Logano has struggled since that win.
The regular season finale will still be a dramatic race as several drivers attempt to defy the odds and make the postseason.
(h/t NBC Sports)