Playoff Points: Kentucky Edition

Lesley Ann Miller/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: Kentucky Speedway

Event: Quaker State 400

Race Winner: Martin Truex, Jr.

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

Who Won Big

  • Martin Truex, Jr.: Is any surprised at this point? Even on old tires, Truex was able to keep his No. 78 Toyota ahead of the field to end a dominant day in the Bluegrass State with a trip to victory lane after sweeping the race’s stages. The Mayetta, New Jersey native now has 28 playoff points, a full 12 markers above his closest competitor.
  • Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin: It was a quiet night for Elliott and Hamlin, but the two drivers ended their nights with finishes of third and fourth, respectively. The results helped the two drivers increase their edge on the playoff bubble heading to New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Elliott now holds an 89-point advantage over 12th-place Joey Logano, while Hamlin’s gap is up to 67 points.
  • Erik Jones: The lone rookie with a shot at racing into the playoff field on points, Jones still has a 52-point deficit to the current bubble driver – Matt Kenseth in 11th. But while he may have ground to make up, runs like Saturday’s consistent sixth-place drive keep the Michigander in the hunt.

 Who Hurt Their Odds:

Brad Keselowski’s early crash could cost him some playoff points come Sept. 
(Photo: Russell LaBounty/NKP)

  • Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson: Considered two of the biggest contenders coming into Kentucky, Keselowski and Johnson both saw their nights come to an early end after a Lap 88 crash. Finishes of 39th and 40th, respectfully, didn’t hurt their ability to make the playoffs, but it did drop the two drivers behind Jamie McMurray and Hamlin to eighth and ninth in the standings – positions that could cost both drivers precious playoff points when the postseason arrives.
  • Richard Childress Racing: There’s no way around it: Saturday was a dreadful night for Richard Childress Racing (RCR). The trio of drivers struggled early and often, losing laps they’d prove unable to make up before finishing 19th, 21st and 22nd. Austin Dillon and Ryan Newman are both essentially guaranteed for postseason berths with wins, but seeing their cars so far off pace with the playoffs approaching has to be a worrying sign for RCR.
  • Daniel Suarez: He didn’t run a terrible race, but Suarez’s 18th-place performance left much to be desired, and the subsequent loss of points left the defending XFINITY Series champion 105 points out of the playoff grid on points. It’ll be win or bust for Suarez and the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing team’s postseason hopes from now through Richmond International Raceway.

Playoff Standings: 

Rank Driver Wins Points Points Ahead/Behind Cutoff
2 Martin Truex, Jr. 3 709 238
9 Jimmie Johnson 3 519 48
1 Kyle Larson 2 710 239
8 Brad Keselowski 2 536 65
16 Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. 2 418 -53
4 Kevin Harvick 1 599 128
13 Ryan Blaney 1 462 -9
15 Kurt Busch 1 419 -52
17 Ryan Newman 1 414 -57
20 Austin Dillon 1 341 -130
3 Kyle Busch 0 609 138
5 Chase Elliott 0 560 89
6 Jamie McMurray 0 545 74
7 Denny Hamlin 0 538 67
10 Clint Bowyer 0 495 24
11 Matt Kenseth 0 478 7
Playoff Cutoff
12 Joey Logano 1* 471 -7
14 Erik Jones 0 426 -52
18 Daniel Suarez 0 373 -105
19 Trevor Bayne 0 352 -126
21 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 0 332 -146
22 Kasey Kahne 0 329 -149
23 Paul Menard 0 309 -169
24 Ty Dillon 0 301 -177
25 Michael McDowell 0 275 -203
26 Chris Buescher 0 271 -207
27 A.J. Allmendinger 0 259 -219
28 David Ragan 0 242 -236
29 Danica Patrick 0 230 -248
30 Matt DiBenedetto 0 196 -282

Where They Stand

(All But) Locked In

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

Safe (For Now)

  • Jamie McMurray, Denny Hamlin

More Work to Do

  • Clint Bowyer
    • Another solid top 10 kept Bowyer trending in the right direction with the summer marching on.

On the Bubble

  • Matt Kenseth
    • The upcoming race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway could prove critical to Kenseth’s playoff run. The 2003 Cup Series champion is the defending winner of the race.

Within Reach 

  • Joey Logano, Erik Jones
    • New Hampshire may also prove critical for Logano, who has two wins at the track and could direly use another.

Likely Need to Win

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

Playoff Points

Playoff Points Earned
Rank Driver Playoff Points
1 Martin Truex, Jr. 28 (+7)
2 Jimmie Johnson 16
3 Kyle Larson 13
4 Brad Keselowski 13
5 Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. 10
6 (tie) Ryan Blaney 8
6 (tie) Kevin Harvick 8
8 (tie) Kurt Busch 5
8 (tie) Ryan Newman 5
8 (tie) Austin Dillon 5
11 Kyle Busch 4
12 (tie) Chase Elliott 2
12 (tie) Denny Hamlin 2
14 (tie) Matt Kenseth 2
14 (tie) Joey Logano 1

Martin Truex Jr. holds a clear edge in playoff points halfway through the season. (Photo: Logan Whitton/NKP)

Playoff Points if Playoffs Started Today
Rank Driver Playoff Points
1 Martin Truex Jr. 38
2 Kyle Larson 28
3 Jimmie Johnson 18
4 Brad Keselowski 16
5 Kevin Harvick 15
6 Kyle Busch 12
7 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 10
8 (tie) Chase Elliott 8
8 (tie) Ryan Blaney 8
10 Denny Hamlin 6
11 (tie) Jamie McMurray 5
11 (tie) Kurt Busch 5
11 (tie) Ryan Newman 5
11 (tie) Austin Dillon 5
15 (tie) Clint Bowyer 1
15 (tie) Joey Logano 1
15 (tie) Matt Kenseth 1

Stage Points

Previous Race Results

Stage 1 Stage 2
Pos. Driver Points Pos. Driver Points
1 Martin Truex, Jr. 10 (+1 Playoff Point) 1 Martin Truex, Jr. 10 (+1 Playoff Point)
2 Kyle Busch 9 2 Kyle Busch 9
3 Kyle Larson 8 3 Matt Kenseth 8
4 Kevin Harvick 7 4 Kevin Harvick 7
5 Jamie McMurray 6 5 Erik Jones 6
6 Matt Kenseth 5 6 Jamie McMurray 5
7 Denny Hamlin 4 7 Kurt Busch 4
8 Erik Jones 3 8 Denny Hamlin 3
9 Jimmie Johnson 2 9 Clint Bowyer 2
10 Chase Elliott 1 10 Chase Elliott 1

Season Totals

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Stage Points
Driver Total Stage Points* Stage Wins
Martin Truex Jr. 235 13
Kyle Larson 209 3
Kyle Busch 168 4
Kevin Harvick 149 3
Brad Keselowski 145 3
Ryan Blaney 124 3
Jimmie Johnson 120 1
Matt Kenseth 115 2
Chase Elliott 114 2
Denny Hamlin 108 2
Jamie McMurray 99
Joey Logano 83 1
Erik Jones 65
Kurt Busch 55
Clint Bowyer 52
Dale Earnhardt Jr. 35
Ryan Newman 29
Kasey Kahne 24
Austin Dillon 19
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 17
AJ Allmendinger 16
Trevor Bayne 15
Danica Patrick 10
David Ragan 7
Ty Dillon 5
Michael McDowell 5
Paul Menard 4
Daniel Suarez 4
Darrell Wallace, Jr. 2

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *