If the Round of 12 ended today, Jimmie Johnson would advance to the Round of 8. Barely.
Johnson is currently in eighth in the points, and he holds a seven-point advantage over Kyle Busch for the last spot. But one trend could keep Johnson from advancing to the next round and end his quest for a record eighth Cup championship.
Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus know that the thing that might keep Johnson from advancing is his lack of stage points -- especially how he hasn't earned many points during Stage 1.
Of the 12 drivers remaining, Johnson is 11th in Stage 1 points on the season ahead of only Jamie McMurray. Kyle Busch, on the other hand, is third in Stage 1 points, and that could be the difference in Busch advancing over Johnson.
Johnson even knew before the playoffs began that his lack of stage points might hurt him.
"I really think so," Johnson told NBC Sports. "We know our qualifying average doesn't lead to a Stage 1 opportunity."
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Johnson's average starting spot is 17 this season, and he hasn't qualified well. His average starting spot in the postseason is 15, which is ahead of only McMurray and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
There's a good chance Busch will have more stage points than Johnson on Sunday, so Johnson might have to finish better than Ryan Blaney if he wants to advance.
Johnson has had success at Kansas Speedway in the past, but Busch has won there more recently. Either way, it will be a close call for Johnson as to whether he can advance another round and continue competing for his eighth championship.
(h/t NBC Sports)