Playoff Points: Kansas I Edition

Chris Trotman/Getty Images

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: Kansas Speedway

Event: Go Bowling 400

Race Winner: Martin Truex, Jr.

Stage Winner(s): Kyle Busch, Ryan Blaney

Who Won Big

  • Martin Truex, Jr.: It’s somehow managed to feel like a quiet year for Truex and Furniture Row Racing in their second season with Toyota, even as they continually best pseudo-teammates Joe Gibbs Racing on-track. Truex is well poised for a playoff run going into the summer months – leading the Cup series with 15 playoff points after 11 races.
  • Jamie McMurray: Another week, and another strong run for McMurray. This time it was an eighth-place result that capped off an aggressive drive for the 2010 Daytona 500 champion, elevating him to fifth in the standings.
  • Ryan Blaney: Blaney’s weekend was a similar story to Texas Motor Speedway last month, in honesty. No win, but the sophomore snagged his third playoff point with a win in Stage 2 and finished fourth to edge his gap over the playoff bubble back out to 49 points. That run had to feel nice after Wood Brothers Racing spent the last month hemorrhaging points.
  • Daniel Suarez: It was a quiet night for Suarez, but the rookie had arguably his best drive of the season thus far in Kansas, earning a respectable result of seventh to climb within 33 points of the playoff cutoff. Will it be easy to close the gap? No. But Suarez is at least in the conversation for the first time in nearly two months.

 Who Hurt Their Odds:

  • Aric Almirola: In one of the least fortunate turns of events in recent memory, a vicious crash ahead of him led Almirola into one of the worst accidents of his career, and a compression fracture to his T5 vertebrae in the process. Almirola’s expected recovery time has yet to be set, but it’s unlikely that he’ll return to the car for the Coca-Cola 600. It’ll likely be win or bust for this team moving forward if they hope to make the playoffs, but all things considered that’s just fine. Almirola’s well-being takes precedent.
  • Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Paul Menard: The former Dale Earnhardt, Inc. teammates have been interesting to watch this season, if just to see what can possibly go wrong next. On Saturday it was a pit road miscue for Earnhardt, and a crash for Menard. Sitting 77 points back, the feeling that these two will need a win to make the postseason grows more difficult to ignore each week.
  • Joey Logano: All seemed to be fine for Logano on Saturday night until an apparent brake rotor issue sent the Team Penske driver’s No. 22 Ford careening into Danica Patrick to start a vicious crash. Two weeks removed from an encumbered win, Logano’s slid from inside of the top five in the standings down to ninth, and now sits just 78 points clear of the playoff bubble. Still fine, but slowly using up mulligans.
  • Erik Jones and Denny Hamlin: The causes for the finishes differed, but Jones and Hamlin ultimately underwhelmed in showings of 22nd and 23rd, respectively. They finished ahead of Jimmie Johnson, but have no victories to fall back on like the seven-time Cup series champion. Instead, Hamlin drops to within 47 points of the bubble, while Jones’ free-fall continues in a tie with fellow rookie Suarez for 19th in the standings.

Playoff Standings: 

Rank Driver Wins Points Ahead/Behind Cutoff
2 Martin Truex, Jr. 2 189
3 Brad Keselowski 2 166
8 Jimmie Johnson 2 81
1 Kyle Larson 1 242
13 Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. 1 34
15 Kurt Busch 1 4
17 Ryan Newman 1 -12
4 Chase Elliott 0 119
5 Jamie McMurray 0 112
6 Kevin Harvick 0 105
7 Kyle Busch 0 83
9 Joey Logano 1* 78
10 Clint Bowyer 0 75
11 Ryan Blaney 0 49
12 Denny Hamlin 0 47
14 Trevor Bayne 0 8
—–Playoff Cutoff—–
16 Kasey Kahne 0 -8
18 Matt Kenseth 0 -17
19 Erik Jones 0 -33
20 Daniel Suarez 0 -33
21 Ty Dillon 0 -46
22 Austin Dillon 0 -57
23 Aric Almirola 0 -62
24 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 0 -77
25 Paul Menard 0 -77
26 Chris Buescher 0 -95
27 David Ragan 0 -106
28 Michael McDowell 0 -113
29 Cole Whitt 0 -114
30 A.J. Allmendinger 0 -120
* One or more wins are encumbered

Where They Stand

(All But) Locked In

  • Martin Truex, Jr., Brad Keselowski,  Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Larson, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman.
    • Race Winners
  • Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray, Kevin Harvick
    • Poor showing from Elliott in 29th, but his significant advantage in the standings helps him out.

Safe (For Now)

  • Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano
    • Logano drops down after a poor showing. What once looked like a sure bet for Logano has quickly lost luster.

More Work to Do

  • Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin
    • A good run for one, a poor run for the other. Regardless, each driver sits one good result away from a safer position in the standings.

On the Bubble

  • Trevor Bayne
    • Solid top-1o run for Bayne, keeping himself in the playoff grid by a slim margin.

Within Reach 

  • Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez, Ty Dillon, Austin Dillon
    • Kahne comes within 10 points of jumping into a current playoff position, but again is undone by a 15th-place finish. The No. 5 team still has work to do in regards to finishing races if they want to jump from bubble team to contender.

Likely Need to Win

  • Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Paul Menard, Chris Buescher, David Ragan, Michael McDowell,  Cole Whitt, A.J. Allmendinger
    • This group continues to fluctuate as Earnhardt and Menard slowly drift into “must-win” range.

Playoff Points

Rank Driver Playoff Points
1 Martin Truex, Jr. 15 (+5)
2 Brad Keselowski 12
3 Jimmie Johnson 10
4 Kyle Larson 7
5 (tie) Ryan Newman 5
5 (tie) Kurt Busch 5
5 (tie) Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. 5
8 (tie) Kevin Harvick 3
8 (tie) Ryan Blaney 3
10 (tie) Chase Elliott 2
10 (tie) Kyle Busch 2
12 (tie) Joey Logano 1
12 (tie) Matt Kenseth 1
12 (tie) Denny Hamlin 1

Stage Points

Stage 1 Stage 2
Pos. Driver Points Pos. Driver Points
1 Kyle Busch 10 (+1 Playoff) 1 Ryan Blaney 10 (+1 Playoff)
2 Martin Truex, Jr. 9 2 Kyle Larson 9
3 Ryan Blaney 8 3 Martin Truex, Jr. 8
4 Kyle Larson 7 4 Jamie McMurray 7
5 Brad Keselowski 6 5 Kyle Busch 6
6 Jimmie Johnson 5 6 Denny Hamlin 5
7 Kevin Harvick 4 7 Kasey Kahne 4
8 Denny Hamlin 3 8 Matt Kenseth 3
9 Kasey Kahne 2 9 Erik Jones 2
10 Kurt Busch 1 10 Joey Logano 1

Season Totals

1. Kyle Larson Chip Ganassi Racing 137 2
2. Martin Truex Jr. Furniture Row Racing 131 5
3. Brad Keselowski Team Penske 113 2
4. Chase Elliott Hendrick Motorsports 90 2
5. Ryan Blaney Wood Brothers Racing 89 3
6. Kevin Harvick Stewart-Haas Racing 86 2
7. Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Racing 79 1
8. Jamie McMurray Chip Ganassi Racing 76 1
9. Joey Logano Team Penske 64 1
10. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Motorsports 62 0
11. Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Racing 57 1
12. Erik Jones Furniture Row Racing 37 0
t-13. Ryan Newman Richard Childress Racing 28 0
t-13. Matt Kenseth Joe Gibbs Racing 28 1
15. Clint Bowyer Stewart-Haas Racing 24 0
16. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Hendrick Motorsports 19 0
17. Kurt Busch Stewart-Haas Racing 18 0
18. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. Rough Fenway Racing 17 0
19. Trevor Bayne Roush Fenway Racing 11 0
t-20. Danica Patrick Stewart-Haas Racing 10 0
t-20. Kasey Kahne Hendrick Motorsports 10 0
t-22. Austin Dillon Richard Childress Racing 7 0
t-22. A.J. Allmendinger JTG Daugherty Racing 7 0
24. Paul Menard Richard Childress Racing 4 0
25. Ty Dillon Germain Racing 2 0

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