Playoff Points: Richmond I Edition

Nigel Kinrade/NKP

By Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Editor

Following each regular season points race, Kickin’ the Tires takes a deep look at the current playoff grids for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, evaluating each team’s postseason odds and highlighting those that made steps in the right direction, as well as those who dug themselves into a hole. 

Track: Richmond International Raceway

Event: Toyota Owners 400

Race Winner: Joey Logano (Encumbered)

Stage Winner(s): Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski

Who Won Big

  • Brad Keselowski: While he may not have taken home the victory, a Stage 2 triumph also saw Keselowski again claim the overall lead in playoff points while avoiding the massive penalties that beset his victorious teammate.
  • Aric Almirola: Sunday’s run wasn’t colossal by any stretch, but a ninth-place finish proved enough to draw gain the Richard Petty Motorsports shoe his highest point total since Daytona, and drew the Floridian to within 12 points of the current playoff field, just a shade over half of his margin entering the weekend.
  • Kevin Harvick: A strong run in Richmond was enough to push the 2014 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion from having a couple mulligans into a near-certainty for the postseason. Harvick jumped two spots in the standings, and now holds a significant 93-point edge on the playoff bubble.
  • Denny Hamlin: Hamlin isn’t yet a lock for the postseason like the driver listed above him on this list, but a strong showing at his home track took the Virginian from the bubble (15th) to 11th in the standings with a sizable 38-point cushion. There still isn’t much room for error, but Hamlin has at least a bit more breathing room heading into the wild card weekend at Talladega Superspeedway

Who Hurt Their Odds:

Joey Logano seemed to all-but guaranteed his place in the playoff field with a victory at Richmond International Raceway. (Photo: Rusty Jarrett/NKP)

 

  • Joey Logano: Ouch. Joey Logano made history as the first driver to have his win stripped of its benefits by being classified as an “encumbered” finish by NASCAR. Not only did he lose the postseason berth and playoff points he’d gained with the victory as a result – he was also penalized 25 points in the standings and loses crew chief Todd Gordon to a two-race suspension.
  • Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: Another week, another crash, and another loss of points. The soon-to-be retired superstar now finds himself 60 points out of the playoff field, essentially a full race’s worth of points under the new stage format. There’s still time left to reverse the trend, but Earnhardt could certainly use a bit of his old Talladega magic this weekend if he wants to give JR Nation hope for a championship chase.
  • Ryan Blaney: More issues for the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing team. Blaney’s second-straight finish outside of the top 30 saw the sophomore fall to 12th in the standings, truly within reach for those outside of the postseason field for the first time this season.
  • Erik Jones: After completing just four laps on Sunday before a cut tire ended his day in 38th, Jones finds himself outside of the playoff field in favor of Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. The Michigander has proven surprisingly consistent this year, but without the speed capable of scoring wins, any future DNFs like the one seen Sunday could prove fatal for this newly-formed second team at Furniture Row Racing.

Playoff Standings: 

Rank Driver Wins Points Ahead/Behind Cutoff
4 Brad Keselowski 2 134
8 Jimmie Johnson 2 77
1 Kyle Larson 1 205
2 Martin Truex, Jr. 1 165
13 Ryan Newman 1 132
18 Kurt Busch 1 -9
3 Chase Elliott 0 153
5 Joey Logano 1* 115
6 Kevin Harvick 0 93
7 Jamie McMurray 0 89
9 Clint Bowyer 0 73
10 Kyle Busch 0 42
11 Denny Hamlin 0 38
12 Ryan Blaney 0 36
14 Trevor Bayne 0 23
15 Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. 0 8
—–Playoff Cutoff—–
16 Erik Jones 0 -8
17 Matt Kenseth 0 -9
19 Aric Almirola 0 -12
20 Kasey Kahne 0 -22
21 Austin Dillon 0 -30
22 Daniel Suarez 0 -32
23 Ty Dillon 0 -44
24 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 0 -60
25 Paul Menard 0 -62
26 AJ Allmendinger 0 -84
27 Chris Buescher 0 -87
28 Danica Patrick 0 -91
29 Michael McDowell 0 -91
30 Cole Whitt/Landon Cassill (Tie) 0 -97
* One or more wins are encumbered

Where They Stand

(All But) Locked In

  • Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Martin Truex, Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch
    • Race Winners
  • Chase Elliott, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick
    • Add Harvick to this section as his advantage in the standings reaches nearly 100 points.
    • Logano loses his automatic berth due to his Richmond win being deemed “encumbered”, but he still holds a 115-point edge in the standings after his 25-point penalty.

Safe (For Now)

  • Jamie McMurray, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch
    • Jamie McMurray continues to show quiet success, and now finds himself just 11 markers from a 100-point edge over the bubble going into May. That has to be comforting for a driver who’s barely made the playoffs in each of the past two seasons.

More Work to Do

  • Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney
    • He seemed rather safe just a few weeks ago, but back-to-back poor results at Bristol and Richmond have left Blaney’s advantage low going into Talladega.

On the Bubble

  • Trevor Bayne, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.
    • The Roush Fenway Racing duo has proven surprisingly steady thus far, sneaking their way into the playoff field with strong runs. Still, both drivers have little margin for error with less than 25 points separating them from the first drivers outside of the playoff grid.

Within Reach 

Matt Kenseth is slowing rising in the standings. (Photo: Nigel Kinrade/NKP)

  • Erik Jones, Matt Kenseth, Aric Almirola, Kasey Kahne, Austin Dillon, Daniel Suarez, Ty Dillon, Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
    • Erik Jones joins this list after dropping out of the playoff grid for the first time since Phoenix.
    • Matt Kenseth continues to climb his way up the board, now within nine points of the playoff grid after earning his first stage victory in Richmond.
    • Dale Earnhardt, Jr. can still point his way into the playoffs with luck, especially given the amount of extra markers up for grabs with stages. However, one or two more bad races and NASCAR’s most popular driver will likely be forced to hunt for a win.

Likely Need to Win

  • Paul Menard, AJ Allmendinger, Chris Buescher, Danica Patrick, Michael McDowell, Cole Whitt, Landon Cassill
    • This week’s race at Talladega is one of two-or-three races that provide the best chance for one of these drivers at the tail end of the top 30 to steal a playoff bid with a victory.

Playoff Points

Rank Driver Playoff Points
1 Brad Keselowski 11 (+1)
2 (tie) Martin Truex, Jr. 10
2 (tie) Jimmie Johnson 10
4 Kyle Larson 7
5 (tie) Ryan Newman 5
5 (tie) Kurt Busch 5
7 Kevin Harvick 3
8 (tie) Chase Elliott 2
8 (tie) Ryan Blaney 2
10 (tie) Joey Logano 1
10 (tie) Kyle Busch 1
10 (tie) Matt Kenseth 1 (+1)

Stage Points

Stage 1 Stage 2
Pos. Driver Points Pos. Driver Points
1 Matt Kenseth 10 (+1 Playoff) 1 Brad Keselowski 10 (+1 Playoff)
2 Kyle Larson 9 2 Matt Kenseth 9
3 Martin Truex, Jr. 8 3 Kevin Harvick 8
4 Kevin Harvick 7 4 Denny Hamlin 7
5 Denny Hamlin 6 5 Kyle Larson 6
6 Brad Keselowski 5 6 Ryan Newman 5
7 Ryan Newman 4 7 Jamie McMurray 4
8 Jamie McMurray 3 8 Clint Bowyer 3
9 Clint Bowyer 2 9 Ty Dillon 2
10 Joey Logano 1 10 Joey Logano 1

Season Totals

RANK DRIVER TEAM STAGE POINTS STAGE WINS
1. Kyle Larson Chip Ganassi Racing 116 2
2. Martin Truex Jr. Furniture Row Racing 100 5
3. Brad Keselowski Team Penske 97 1
4. Chase Elliott Hendrick Motorsports 90 2
5. Kevin Harvick Stewart-Haas Racing 73 3
6. Jamie McMurray Chip Ganassi Racing 68 0
7. Ryan Blaney Wood Brothers Racing 61 2
8. Joey Logano Team Penske 58 1
9. Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Racing 55 1
10. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Motorsports 51 0
11. Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Racing 39 0
12. Erik Jones Furniture Row Racing 32 0
13. Ryan Newman Richard Childress Racing 28 0
14. Matt Kenseth Joe Gibbs Racing 25 1
15. Clint Bowyer Stewart-Haas Racing 24 0
16. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Hendrick Motorsports 19 0
17. Kurt Busch Stewart-Haas Racing 13 0
18. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Roush Fenway Racing 8 0
t-19. Danica Patrick Stewart-Haas Racing 7 0
t-19. Austin Dillon Richard Childress Racing 7 0
t-19. AJ Allmendinger JTG Daugherty Racing 7 0
22. Trevor Bayne Roush Fenway Racing 5 0
23. Ty Dillon Germain Racing 2 0
24. Kasey Kahne Hendrick Motorsports 1 0

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