Playoff Points: Michigan 2 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: Pure Michigan 400

Race Winner: Kyle Larson

Stage Winner(s): Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr.

Who Won Big

Kyle Larson parlayed a magical restart into his third-straight Michigan win. (Photo: Rusty Jarrett/NKP)

  • Kyle Larson: The first 400 miles of Sunday’s race were quiet for Chip Ganassi Racing’s young star. Then that final restart happened. Now Larson has three wins on the year, and the highest amount of playoff points (18) of anyone not named Martin Truex Jr.
  • Brad Keselowski: Okay, “won big” is a bit of an overstatement. But Keselowski did gain another playoff point, tying the Michigander with Kyle Busch for the fourth-highest total in the series.
  • Martin Truex Jr.: The disappointment of giving away a win and five playoff points late was evident on Truex’s face after Sunday’s race, but the New Jersey native still added a series-best 35th playoff point to his total with a Stage 2 win. Top 10s may be enough to carry Truex to Homestead-Miami Speedway in the playoffs at this point.
  • Chase Elliott and Jamie McMurray: Elliott’s runner-up streak at Michigan came to an end, and McMurray was overshadowed by his teammate, but the duo did exactly what they needed to do on Sunday – avoid mistakes and finish in the top 10. Given how their closest competitors performed, that may have been enough for these two to hold on to their playoff positions.

Who Hurt Their Odds:

  • Erik Jones: Make no mistake, Jones had the strongest run of his short-lived Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career on Sunday. But the rookie couldn’t quite finish the job in what was likely his best chance to win his way into the playoffs. Michigan wasn’t a bad day career-wise, but it hurt his playoff odds nonetheless.
  • Joey Logano: Could it really be Richmond or bust for Logano? The two-time Championship 4 participant entered Sunday full of promise after qualifying second, but faded out of contention before a late cut tire resulted in a 28th-place result.
  • Matt Kenseth: Oh man, what a bad spot to be in. Sitting in third, Kenseth had two options on the race’s final restart – try to push Jones to the lead and risk him winning and taking a spot on points out of the playoff grid, or try to pass him and face whatever mayhem followed. Kenseth chose the latter, and paid for it dearly with a cut tire. Thanks to that the 2003 Cup Series champion is still on the playoff bubble, with Clint Bowyer just 31 points back.

Playoff Standings: 

Rank Driver Wins Points Points Ahead/Behind Cutoff
1 Martin Truex Jr. 4 933 310
2 Kyle Larson 3 804 181
11 Jimmie Johnson 3 592 -31
5 Brad Keselowski 2 720 97
18 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 2 505 -118
3 Kyle Busch 1 797 174
4 Kevin Harvick 1 787 164
6 Denny Hamlin 1 710 87
12 Ryan Blaney 1 592 -31
14 Kurt Busch 1 554 -69
15 Ryan Newman 1 536 -87
20 Kasey Kahne 1 438 -185
21 Austin Dillon 1 436 -187
7 Chase Elliott 0 685 62
8 Jamie McMurray 0 675 52
9 Matt Kenseth 0 654 31
Playoff Cutoff
10 Clint Bowyer 0 623 -31
13 Joey Logano 1* 556 -98
16 Erik Jones 0 524 -130
17 Daniel Suarez 0 515 -139
19 Trevor Bayne 0 440 -214
22 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 0 402 -252
23 Ty Dillon 0 394 -260
24 Paul Menard 0 385 -269
25 Chris Buescher 0 377 -277
26 A.J. Allmendinger 0 366 -288
27 Michael McDowell 0 361 -293
28 Danica Patrick 0 340 -314
29 David Ragan 0 283 -371
30 A.J. Allmendinger 0 267 -387

Where They Stand

Chase Elliott and Matt Kenseth remained on the right side of the playoff bubble. (Photo: Rusty Jarrett/NKP)

(All But) Locked In

  • Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Larson, Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.,  Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne, Austin Dillon
    • Race Winners

Safe (For Now)

More Work to Do

  • Chase Elliott
    • Elliott’s a full race clear after another solid run in Michigan. Now the Georgian just needs to avoid any sort of misstep for the next three weeks – assuming no one unexpected wins.

On the Bubble

  • Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth
    • McMurray’s fairly safe for now with a 52-point edge, but could fall back within reach if he were to suffer any sort of setback.
    • Kenseth continues to occupy the position of ‘just barely scraping by on the bubble’ – a spot he seems intent to hold through Richmond.

Within Reach 

  • Clint Bowyer
    • Bowyer had a strong car on Sunday, but saw his day ruined by pit road issues that kept him from capitalizing on Kenseth’s late misfortune.

Likely Need to Win

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

Playoff Points

Playoff Points Earned
Rank Driver Playoff Points
1 Martin Truex, Jr. 35
2 Kyle Larson 18
3 Jimmie Johnson 16
4 (tie) Kyle Busch 14
4 (tie) Brad Keselowski 14
6 Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. 10
7 (tie) Ryan Blaney 8
7 (tie) Kevin Harvick 8
9 Denny Hamlin 7
10 (tie) Kurt Busch 5
10 (tie) Ryan Newman 5
10 (tie) Austin Dillon 5
10 (tie) Kasey Kahne 5
14 (tie) Chase Elliott 2
14 (tie) Matt Kenseth 2
16 (tie) Joey Logano 1
16 (tie) Clint Bowyer 1
16 (tie) Daniel Suarez 1

Brad Keselowski held Kevin Harvick at bay to snag a stage win and playoff point at his home track. (Photo: Matthew T. Thacker/NKP)

Playoff Points if Playoffs Started Today
Rank Driver Playoff Points
1 Martin Truex Jr. 50
2 Kyle Larson 28
3 Kyle Busch 22
4 Brad Keselowski 20
5 Jimmie Johnson 17
6 Kevin Harvick 15
7 Denny Hamlin 12
8 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 10
9 Ryan Blaney 8
10 Chase Elliott 6
11 (tie) Kurt Busch 5
11 (tie) Ryan Newman 5
11 (tie) Austin Dillon 5
11 (tie) Kasey Kahne 5
15 Matt Kenseth 4
16 Jamie McMurray 3

Stage Points

Previous Race Results

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

Season Totals

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Stage Points
Driver Total Stage Points Stage Wins
Martin Truex Jr. 312 15
Kyle Larson 236 3
Kyle Busch 231 9
Kevin Harvick 197 3
Brad Keselowski 192 4
Ryan Blaney 164 3
Matt Kenseth 150 2
Denny Hamlin 133 2
Chase Elliott 132 2
Jimmie Johnson 128 1
Jamie McMurray 125
Joey Logano 102 1
Erik Jones 91
Kurt Busch 72
Clint Bowyer 66 1
Ryan Newman 39
Dale Earnhardt Jr. 36
Kasey Kahne 36
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 22
AJ Allmendinger 21
Daniel Suarez 20 1
Austin Dillon 19
Trevor Bayne 18
Danica Patrick 18
David Ragan 7
Michael McDowell 7
Ty Dillon 5
Paul Menard 4

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