Playoff Points: Michigan I Edition

Matthew T. Thacker/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: Michigan International Speedway

Event: FireKeepers Casino 400

Race Winner: Kyle Larson

Stage Winner(s): Martin Truex, Jr. (Won Both Stages)

Who Won Big

  • Kyle Larson: Solid weekend, Yung Money. Larson earned his second victory of 2017 at Michigan, snagging the points lead and five playoff points in the process. Each of those playoff points are going to be crucial, too, thanks to the second driver on this list…
  • Martin Truex, Jr.: … This guy. Truex continued to do what he does best, snagging his ninth and 10th stage victories of the year. For reference, no one else has more than four. There are still questions about the No. 78 team’s ability to deliver race victories, but they may only need to deliver one solid performance at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the title if they can keep padding their playoff point total.
  • Joey Logano: Courtesy of a fortuitous yellow and fresh tires, Logano stormed through the field to steal a third-place finish, a result that kept the Team Penske star on the right side of the playoff bubble.
  • Jamie McMurray: While his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate garnered most of the weekend storylines with his second win, McMurray’s quiet fifth-place run did wonders for the 2010 Daytona 500 champion’s playoff odds. McMurray holds a 59-point edge over the playoff bubble – crucial as new winners continue to move the cutoff higher.

 Who Hurt Their Odds:

  • Clint Bowyer: No driver was more frustrated with Sunday’s late debris caution than Bowyer, and for good reason. It led the Stewart-Haas Racing shoe into a crash that knocked him out of the current playoff grid. A repeat of his 2012 triumph at Sonoma Raceway this weekend would do Bowyer a world of good.

    Kyle Busch and the No. 18 team saw another win slip away in the Irish Hills of Michigan. 
    (Photo: Matthew T. Thacker/NKP)

  • Kyle Busch: He didn’t lose in the traditional meaning of dropping points on the playoff bubble, but Busch’s playoff odds took another shot as he surrendered a late lead to one of his closest competitors. The Las Vegas, Nevada native has just four playoff points, 16 points fewer than pseudo-teammate Truex.
  • Daniel Suarez: Another one hurt by the late cautions, Suarez was bailed out a bit when he spun down into Danica Patrick to cause the race’s final caution, with Patrick taking the majority of the damage associated with the crash. Still, the wreck led to as many as dozen or more lost points as the Mexican rookie limped home in 24th, falling to 85 points behind the playoff cutoff.

Playoff Standings: 

Rank Driver Wins Points Ahead/Behind Cutoff
8 Jimmie Johnson 3 58
1 Kyle Larson 2 249
2 Martin Truex, Jr. 2 244
6 Brad Keselowski 2 85
13 Ryan Blaney 1 -15
14 Kurt Busch 1 -32
15 Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. 1 -37
17 Ryan Newman 1 -47
20 Austin Dillon 0 -94
3 Kyle Busch 0 119
4 Kevin Harvick 0 117
5 Chase Elliott 0 87
7 Jamie McMurray 0 59
9 Denny Hamlin 0 39
10 Joey Logano 1* 7
11 Matt Kenseth 0 7
Playoff Cutoff
12 Clint Bowyer 0 -7
16 Erik Jones 0 -52
18 Trevor Bayne 0 -75
19 Daniel Suarez 0 -85
21 Kasey Kahne 0 -108
22 Ty Dillon 0 -134
23 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 0 -141
24 Paul Menard 0 -165
25 Chris Buescher 0 -193
26 A.J. Allmendinger 0 -196
27 Michael McDowell 0 -198
28 Aric Almirola 0 -210
29 David Ragan 0 -213
30 Danica Patrick 0 -222
* One or more wins are encumbered

Where They Stand

(All But) Locked In

  • Martin Truex, Jr., Brad Keselowski,  Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Kurt Busch, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Ryan Newman and Austin Dillon.
    • Race Winners
  • Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliott

Safe (For Now)

  • Jamie McMurray
    • Still running strong and looking good, with a full race’s advantage on the playoff cutoff battle.

More Work to Do

  • Denny Hamlin
    • Slowly distancing himself from the cutoff battle. A strong showing in Sonoma could give Hamlin a full-race advantage on the scrum for the final playoff positions.

On the Bubble

  • Joey Logano, Matt Kenseth
    • Kenseth’s steady climb continues, with the Wisconsinite rising back into the playoff grid.

Within Reach 

  • Clint Bowyer, Erik Jones
    • Bowyer drops out of the playoff grid for the first time since the season-opening Daytona 500.
    • Jones faced an uphill battle after an early tire issue trapped him a lap down, but ultimately salvaged a 13th-place finish in his home state to maintain his place on the outer edge of contention for a playoff bid.

Likely Need to Win

Daniel Suarez will likely need a win to make the playoffs after a rocky return to the site of his first NASCAR XFINITY Series win. (Photo: Nigel Kinrade/NKP)

  • Trevor Bayne, Daniel Suarez, Kasey Kahne, Ty Dillon, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Paul Menard, Chris Buescher, A.J. Allmendinger, Michael McDowell, Aric Almirola, David Ragan, Danica Patrick.
    • Bayne and Suarez are added to the list as their gap to the playoff cutoff slowly grows.

Playoff Points

Rank Driver Playoff Points
1 Martin Truex, Jr. 20 (+2)
2 Jimmie Johnson 15
3 Kyle Larson 13 (+5)
4 Brad Keselowski 12
5 Ryan Blaney 8
6 (tie) Kurt Busch 5
6 (tie) Ryan Newman 5
6 (tie) Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. 5
6 (tie) Austin Dillon 5
10 Kyle Busch 4
11 Kevin Harvick 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 Martin Truex, Jr. 10 (+1 Playoff) 1 Martin Truex, Jr. 10 (+1 Playoff)
2 Kyle Larson 9 2 Kyle Busch 9
3 Kyle Busch 8 3 Kyle Larson 8
4 Denny Hamlin 7 4 Matt Kenseth 7
5 Matt Kenseth 6 5 Clint Bowyer 6
6 Clint Bowyer 5 6 Kevin Harvick 5
7 Ryan Blaney 4 7 Denny Hamlin 4
8 Chase Elliott 3 8 Kurt Busch 3
9 Joey Logano 2 9 Chase Elliott 2
10 Jimmie Johnson 1 10 Brad Keselowski 1

Season Totals

RANK DRIVER TEAM STAGE POINTS STAGE WINS
1. Martin Truex Jr. Furniture Row Racing 205 8
2. Kyle Larson Chip Ganassi Racing 193 3
3. Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Racing 150 4
4. Kevin Harvick Stewart-Haas Racing 132 3
5. Brad Keselowski Team Penske 126 2
6. Chase Elliott Hendrick Motorsports 110 2
7. Ryan Blaney Wood Brothers Racing 104 3
8. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Motorsports 100 0
9. Jamie McMurray Chip Ganassi Racing 84 0
10. Matt Kenseth Joe Gibbs Racing 82 1
11. Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Racing 79 2
12. Joey Logano Team Penske 66 1
13. Erik Jones Furniture Row Racing 56 0
14. Clint Bowyer Stewart-Haas Racing 42 0
15. Kurt Busch Stewart-Haas Racing 41 0
16. Ryan Newman Richard Childress Racing 28 0
17. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Hendrick Motorsports 21 0
18. Kasey Kahne Hendrick Motorsports 18 0
19. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Roush Fenway Racing 17 0
20. Austin Dillon Richard Childress Racing 13 0
21. Trevor Bayne Roush Fenway Racing 11 0
22. Danica Patrick Stewart-Haas Racing 10 0
23. AJ Allmendinger JTG Daugherty Racing 7 0
t-24. Paul Menard Richard Childress Racing 4 0
t-24. Daniel Suarez Joe Gibbs Racing 4 0
26. Ty Dillon Germain Racing 2 0

 

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