It’s getting close to the Chase.
Five races remain until Richmond – the final race in the regular season. Through 20 races, five drivers – Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth – have clinched spots in the 16-driver postseason. They have multiple wins and are guaranteed to finish in the top 30 in the points standings (as long as they start the remaining races in the regular season).
That number could change at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway on Sunday. If any of five other drivers who have one victory and are assured spots in the top 30 – Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr. or Denny Hamlin – can break through for a second win, that driver would also clinch a spot in the postseason.
Remember, there’s still the mathematical possibility that there can be more than 16 different winners or even a points leader with no victories who, according to the rule book, would earn a spot in the Chase.
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Then there’s Tony Stewart, who has his one victory, but at 27th in the standings hasn’t clinched a spot inside the top 30.
Five winless Chase hopefuls – rookie Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon, Ryan Newman, Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson – are hanging on to spots 11-15 (Stewart has the other berth).
Larson was the biggest mover of the week, moving into the 15th spot from No. 19 with his fifth-place finish at Indianapolis. Dale Earnhardt Jr., who has missed the last two races and will also be out for Pocono with concussion-like symptoms, has dropped to 17th and out of the Chase – for now, at least.
Here’s where the five drivers who can clinch this weekend stand*:
▪ Harvick (one victory, 671 points, 434 points ahead of 31st).
▪ Kurt Busch (one victory, 627 points, 390 points ahead of 31st).
▪ Logano (one victory, 606 points, 369 points ahead 31st).
▪ Truex (one victory, 573 points, 336 points ahead of 31st).
▪ Hamlin (one victory, 542 Points, 305 points ahead of 31st).