Playoff Points: Sonoma 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: Sonoma Raceway

Event: Toyota / Save Mart 350

Race Winner: Kevin Harvick

Stage Winner(s): Martin Truex, Jr., Jimmie Johnson

Who Won Big

  • Kevin Harvick: It had been a strong, but quiet season for the California Kid and his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team. But one strong afternoon in California changed everything, giving Harvick his first win at his home track, on a road course and under the Ford banner. He was already likely playoff bound, but now the 2014 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) champ’s a virtual lock.
  • Clint Bowyer: Forget the fact that his car looked more fit for a demolition derby than a Cup Series race, Bowyer bounced back over the second half of Sunday’s 110-lap race to score a strong second-place finish. As a result, he again finds himself on the right side of the playoff bubble, heading to a race at Daytona International Speedway that he’s capable of winning.
  • Jimmie Johnson: It wasn’t the strongest day for Johnson and the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team, but a well-timed decision to stay out netted the seven-time MENCS champion his first stage win, and a 16th playoff point as a result.
  • Denny Hamlin: He didn’t match his runner-up result from 2016, but Hamlin’s strong fourth-place run, combined with stage points, netted him a race-high 46 points in Sonoma. The result elevates Hamlin to 53 markers ahead of the current playoff bubble in ninth, just one point behind Jamie McMurray for eighth.

 Who Hurt Their Odds:

It was another tough day at the office for Kasey Kahne. (Photo: Nigel Kinrade/NKP)

  • Martin Truex, Jr.: Yes, he got a stage win. But Truex and Furniture Row Racing appeared poised for so much more. Pit road woes had trapped him behind Harvick when his motor blew, but the strength he’d shown all day indicated that he likely could’ve closed the gap to fight for the lead. This team has more than one mulligan to spare, but a car that strong doesn’t come often.
  • A.J. Allmendinger: Sitting 27th in points, Allmendinger knows his prowess on road courses is likely his only chance at a playoff berth. After finishing 35th with power issues in Sonoma, that means Watkins Glen International may be his final opportunity at a postseason bid.
  • Kasey Kahne: When it rains, it pours. After a decent (if not outstanding) start to the season, Kahne’s again dropped substantially in the standings over the course of the spring with a slew of poor results. Sunday’s 110 laps appeared that they would go clean and green for Kahne, but a last lap scuffled left the Enumclaw, Washington native dazed after heavy contact with a concrete barrier, and outside of the top 20 in the series standings.

Playoff Standings: 

Rank Driver Wins Points Points Ahead/Behind Cutoff
7 Jimmie Johnson 3 483 60
1 Kyle Larson 2 659 236
2 Martin Truex, Jr. 2 646 223
5 Brad Keselowski 2 519 96
3 Kevin Harvick 1 548 125
13 Ryan Blaney 1 415 -12
14 Kurt Busch 1 389 -38
15 Ryan Newman 1 367 -60
17 Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. 1 355 -72
20 Austin Dillon 0 322 -105
4 Kyle Busch 0 542 119
6 Chase Elliott 0 509 86
8 Jamie McMurray 0 477 54
9 Denny Hamlin 0 476 53
10 Joey Logano 1* 434 11
11 Clint Bowyer 0 427 4
Playoff Cutoff
12 Matt Kenseth 0 423 -4
16 Erik Jones 0 358 -69
18 Trevor Bayne 0 337 -90
19 Daniel Suarez 0 334 -93
21 Kasey Kahne 0 305 -122
22 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 0 293 -134
23 Ty Dillon 0 273 -154
24 Paul Menard 0 259 -168
25 Chris Buescher 0 223 -204
26 Michael McDowell 0 223 -204
27 A.J. Allmendinger 0 213 -214
28 Danica Patrick 0 196 -231
29 David Ragan 0 191 -236
30 Aric Almirola 0 188 -239
* One or more wins are encumbered

Where They Stand

(All But) Locked In

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

Safe (For Now)

  • Jamie McMurray, Denny Hamlin
    • Hamlin gave himself what is essentially a full-race advantage on the playoff scrum with a top five in Sonoma. .

More Work to Do

On the Bubble

  • Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer
    • Bowyer’s runner-up result swung his No. 14 team back to the right side of the playoff bubble.

Within Reach 

Matt Kenseth again sits on the wrong side of the playoff bubble. (Photo: Matthew T. Thacker/NKP)

  • Matt Kenseth, Erik Jones
    • Kenseth finds himself out of a playoff spot – again – after Bowyer’s strong run. Some luck for the Wisconsinite in Daytona could switch things back around.
    • Jones dropped back to 69 points out of the postseason field with a difficult debut at Sonoma, leaving the Michigander has no margin for error over the summer months.

Likely Need to Win

  • Trevor Bayne, Daniel Suarez, Kasey Kahne, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Ty Dillon, Paul Menard, Chris Buescher, Michael McDowell, A.J. Allmendinger, Danica Patrick, David Ragan, Aric Almirola.

Playoff Points

Rank Driver Playoff Points
1 Martin Truex, Jr. 21 (+1)
2 Jimmie Johnson 16 (+1)
3 Kyle Larson 13
4 Brad Keselowski 12
5 (tie) Ryan Blaney 8
5 (tie) Kevin Harvick 8
7 (tie) Kurt Busch 5
7 (tie) Ryan Newman 5
7 (tie) Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. 5
7 (tie) Austin Dillon 5
11 Kyle Busch 4
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 Jimmie Johnson 10 (+1 Playoff)
2 A.J. Allmendinger 9 2 Brad Keselowski 9
3 Kyle Larson 8 3 Matt Kenseth 8
4 Ryan Blaney 7 4 Denny Hamlin 7
5 Denny Hamlin 6 5 Joey Logano 6
6 Joey Logano 5 6 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 5
7 Trevor Bayne 4 7 Ryan Blaney 4
8 Austin Dillon 3 8 Austin Dillon 3
9 Kasey Kahne 2 9 Chase Elliott 2
10 Clint Bowyer 1 10 Ryan Newman 1

Season Totals

RANK DRIVER TEAM STAGE POINTS STAGE WINS
1. Martin Truex Jr. Furniture Row Racing 215 8
2. Kyle Larson Chip Ganassi Racing 201 3
3. Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Racing 150 4
4. Brad Keselowski Team Penske 135 3
5. Kevin Harvick Stewart-Haas Racing 132 2
6. Ryan Blaney Wood Brothers Racing 115 2
7. Chase Elliott Hendrick Motorsports 112 3
8. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Motorsports 110 0
9. Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Racing 92 0
10. Matt Kenseth Joe Gibbs Racing 90 1
11. Jamie McMurray Chip Ganassi Racing 84 2
12. Joey Logano Team Penske 77 1
13. Erik Jones Furniture Row Racing 56 0
14. Clint Bowyer Stewart-Haas Racing 43 0
15. Kurt Busch Stewart-Haas Racing 41 0
16. Ryan Newman Richard Childress Racing 29 0
17. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Hendrick Motorsports 26 0
18. Kasey Kahne Hendrick Motorsports 20 0
19. Austin Dillon Richard Childress Racing 19 0
20. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Roush Fenway Racing 17 0
21. AJ Allmendinger JTG Daugherty Racing 16 0
22. Trevor Bayne Roush Fenway Racing 15 0
23. Danica Patrick Stewart-Haas Racing 10 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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