Playoff Points: Charlotte I Edition

Sarah Crabill/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: Charlotte Motor Speedway

Event: Coca-Cola 600

Race Winner: Austin Dillon

Stage Winner(s): Kyle Busch, Martin Truex, Jr.

Who Won Big

  • Austin Dillon: The NASCAR equivalent of a bracket buster in March Madness, Dillon literally slid his way into the playoffs with a surprising win on Sunday. The victory isn’t a total shock – he’s been competitive at times over the past few years – but it comes as a complete shakeup to the playoff picture most had entering Charlotte, given that the North Carolinian is 21st in the standings.
  • Toyota: No, they didn’t win. But Toyota otherwise stole the show on an impressive day in Charlotte. Joe Gibbs Racing’s (JGR) Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin joined Martin Truex, Jr. to take the race’s three stages, and the manufacturer combined to take five of the top seven spots at race’s end. The Coke 600 was a significant step in the right direction, particularly for JGR.
  • Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: Not the prettiest night, but it ended in a top 10 for NASCAR’s most popular driver. That was a must-have run for the two-time Daytona 500, keeping his slim odds at a playoff spot on points alive. This team’s going to have to figure out quickly how to score stage points if they truly want to have a chance, though.

 Who Hurt Their Odds:

Amid a tumultuous season, Austin Dillon’s slide into the playoffs served as a major shakeup to the playoff hopes of many drivers. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

  • Chase Elliott: There was nothing Elliott could do about running over left by Jeffrey Earnhardt’s No. 33, but it didn’t make the Georgian feel any better when his No. 24 Chevrolet slowed and was ran into from behind by Brad Keselowski. While Keselowski has two wins to fall back on, the winless Elliott saw a drop to seventh in the series standings after his early exit, 74 points ahead of the current cutoff.
  • Trevor Bayne: There was nothing bad about Bayne’s 16th-place run on Sunday. It was serviceable, if unspectacular. However, the upset win from Dillon saw the playoff bubble rise one position, trapping the Roush Fenway Racing driver a full 37 points outside of the cutoff.
  • Kasey Kahne: If there was one driver that didn’t need a crash on Sunday, it was Kahne. But that’s exactly what happened in the Coke 600. The result – the Enumclaw, Washington native dropped to 20th in the standings, 64 points out from a playoff spot.
  • Ryan Blaney: The Wood Brothers Racing prodigy was hit with a double-whammy in the points on Sunday. First his team was forced off-track to fix an axle, dropping them to 12th in the standings. Then Dillon won to push the 23-year-old to the playoff bubble. With Kenseth lurking just 20 points back, keeping a playoff spot won’t be easy.

Playoff Standings: 

Rank Driver Wins Points Ahead/Behind Cutoff
1 Martin Truex, Jr. 2 203
3 Brad Keselowski 2 121
8 Jimmie Johnson 2 71
2 Kyle Larson 1 198
13 Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. 1 10
14 Kurt Busch 1 2
17 Ryan Newman 1 -22
21 Austin Dillon 1 -50
4 Kevin Harvick 0 100
5 Kyle Busch 0 98
6 Jamie McMurray 0 97
7 Chase Elliott 0 74
9 Clint Bowyer 0 55
10 Joey Logano 1* 48
11 Denny Hamlin 0 44
12 Ryan Blaney 0 20
—–Playoff Cutoff—–
15 Matt Kenseth 0 -20
16 Trevor Bayne 0 -37
18 Erik Jones 0 -52
19 Daniel Suarez 0 -62
20 Kasey Kahne 0 -64
22 Ty Dillon 0 -103
23 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 0 -106
24 Paul Menard 0 -111
25 Aric Almirola 0 -120
26 Chris Buescher 0 -136
27 David Ragan 0 -150
28 Michael McDowell 0 -153
29 A.J. Allmendinger 0 -159
30 Cole Whitt 0 -169
* 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, Ryan Newman and Austin Dillon.
    • Race Winners
  • Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Jamie McMurray, Chase Elliott
    • Kyle Busch enters this category after the strong run fans have been waiting to see from him for the past few months.
    • Two bad runs have Elliott running out of mulligans, but he’s still in a solid position in the standings for now.

Safe (For Now)

  • Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin
    • A strong showing from Hamlin gives him a race advantage over the ever-diminishing cut.

More Work to Do

On the Bubble

  • Ryan Blaney
    • Blaney and the Wood Brothers have been impressive, but they’re just part failure or surprise winner away from the wrong side of the cut line.

Within Reach 

Matt Kenseth continues to creep into the playoff picture. (Photo: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

  • Matt Kenseth, Trevor Bayne, Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez, Kasey Kahne
    • Kenseth continues to creep ever-closer to the playoff bubble. He’s one solid run from a breakthrough.
    • Tough luck for Bayne, Kahne and the Toyota rookie duo – Dillon’s win just increased the hill they must climb to rise into postseason contention

Likely Need to Win

  • Ty Dillon, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Paul Menard, Aric Almirola, Chris Buescher, David Ragan, Michael McDowell,  A.J. Allmendinger, Cole Whitt
    • Sorry, Ty. Your older brother’s win just closed off what little hopes you had of making the playoffs on points.

Playoff Points

Rank Driver Playoff Points
1 Martin Truex, Jr. 16 (+1)
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
5 (tie) Austin Dillon 5
9 (tie) Kevin Harvick 3
9 (tie) Ryan Blaney 3
9 (tie) Kyle Busch 3
12 (tie) Chase Elliott 2
12 (tie) Denny Hamlin 2
14 (tie) Joey Logano 1
14 (tie) Matt Kenseth 1

Stage Points

Stage 1 Stage 2
Pos. Driver Points Pos. Driver Points
1 Kyle Busch 10 (+1 Playoff) 1 Martin Truex, Jr. 10 (+1 Playoff)
2 Martin Truex, Jr. 9 2 Jimmie Johnson 9
3 Kevin Harvick 8 3 Matt Kenseth 8
4 Jimmie Johnson 7 4 Kyle Busch 7
5 Matt Kenseth 6 5 Kurt Busch 6
6 Kyle Larson 5 6 Jamie McMurray 5
7 Ryan Blaney 4 7 Austin Dillon 4
8 Clint Bowyer 3 8 Erik Jones 3
9 Kurt Busch 2 9 Kyle Larson 2
10 Jamie McMurray 1 10 Denny Hamlin 1
Stage 3
Pos. Driver Points
1 Denny Hamlin 10 (+1 Playoff)
2 Kyle Busch 9
3 Matt Kenseth 8
4 Martin Truex, Jr. 7
5 Erik Jones 6
6 Kurt Busch 5
7 Kevin Harvick 4
8 Daniel Suarez 3
9 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 2
10 Austin Dillon 1

Season Totals

RANK DRIVER TEAM  STAGE POINTS STAGE WINS
1. Martin Truex Jr. Furniture Row Racing 157 6
2. Kyle Larson Chip Ganassi Racing 144 2
3. Brad Keselowski Team Penske 113 2
4. Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Racing 105 3
5. Kevin Harvick Stewart-Haas Racing 98 3
6. Ryan Blaney Wood Brothers Racing 93 3
7. Chase Elliott Hendrick Motorsports 90 2
8. Jamie McMurray Chip Ganassi Racing 82 0
9. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Motorsports 78 0
10. Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Racing 68 2
11. Joey Logano Team Penske 64 1
12. Matt Kenseth Joe Gibbs Racing 50 1
13. Erik Jones Furniture Row Racing 46 0
14. Kurt Busch Stewart-Haas Racing 31 0
15. Ryan Newman Richard Childress Racing 28 0
16. Clint Bowyer Stewart-Haas Racing 27 0
17. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Hendrick Motorsports 21 0
18. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Roush Fenway Racing 17 0
19. Austin Dillon Richard Childress Racing 12 0
20. Trevor Bayne Roush Fenway Racing 11 0
t-21. Danica Patrick Stewart-Haas Racing 10 0
t-21. Kasey Kahne Hendrick Motorsports 10 0
23. AJ Allmendinger JTG Daugherty Racing 7 0
24. Paul Menard Richard Childress Racing 4 0
25. Daniel Suarez Joe Gibbs Racing 3 0
26. Ty Dillon Germain Racing 2 0

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