Playoff Points: Bristol 2 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: Bristol Motor Speedway

Event: Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race

Race Winner: Kyle Busch

Stage Winner(s): Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth

Who Won Big

Kyle Busch got the broom out after an unstoppable weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway. (Photo: Lesley Ann Miller/NKP)

  • Kyle Busch: What more can be said? It was a near-perfect weekend for Busch. He won all three races, lost only one stage due to pit strategy and gained six additional playoff points in the process, with the potential to snag two more if he can hold off Kyle Larson for second in the regular season standings. In one weekend Busch elevated himself from solid contender to Martin Truex Jr.’s biggest threat for the title.
  • Matt Kenseth: Crisis averted. Kenseth’s strong third-place run at Bristol lifted him past Jamie McMurray and off of the playoff bubble. More importantly, his late challenges and Busch’s surge to the lead kept Erik Jones from earning a win that could’ve sent the playoff battle into a frenzy.
  • Denny Hamlin: He didn’t have the success of teammates Busch and Kenseth, but Hamlin’s late rise into the top five was enough to move the Virginian 25 points clear of Brad Keselowski for fifth in the standings. Two mistake-free races should be all it takes for Hamlin to maintain that gap to the postseason and tally the playoff points associated with it.

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 Saturday. But the rookie couldn’t quite finish the job in what was likely his best chance to win his way into the playoffs. That said, this is the exact same thing I wrote last week, so maybe I could be proven wrong.
  • Brad Keselowski: What a brutal night. An early flat tire under green killed any hopes Keselowski had of repeating his 2011 Bristol Night Race win. Instead the Michigander finished seven laps down in 29th, and plummeted into a battle for sixth through ninth in the championship standings as a result.
  • Clint Bowyer: He’s been skirting just on the outside of contention for a playoff spot on points since Kasey Kahne’s Brickyard 400 win in July, but Saturday’s 19th-place run simply won’t cut it for Bowyer moving forward. The Stewart-Haas Racing newcomer sits 10th in the standings, 58 points behind McMurray for the final spot in the playoff grid.

Playoff Standings: 

Rank Driver Wins Points Points Ahead/Behind Cutoff
1 Martin Truex Jr. 4 951 309
3 Kyle Larson 3 845 203
11 Jimmie Johnson 3 628 -14
2 Kyle Busch 2 850 208
6 Brad Keselowski 2 728 86
18 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 2 528 -114
4 Kevin Harvick 1 824 182
5 Denny Hamlin 1 753 111
12 Ryan Blaney 1 623 -19
13 Kurt Busch 1 586 -56
15 Ryan Newman 1 574 -68
20 Kasey Kahne 1 451 -191
21 Austin Dillon 1 437 -205
7 Chase Elliott 0 711 69
8 Matt Kenseth 0 703 61
9 Jamie McMurray 0 700 58
Playoff Cutoff
10 Clint Bowyer 0 642 -58
14 Joey Logano 1* 583 -117
16 Erik Jones 0 574 -126
17 Daniel Suarez 0 537 -163
19 Trevor Bayne 0 470 -230
22 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 0 416 -284
23 Paul Menard 0 408 -292
24 Ty Dillon 0 395 -305
25 Chris Buescher 0 387 -313
26 A.J. Allmendinger 0 381 -319
27 Michael McDowell 0 378 -322
28 Danica Patrick 0 352 -348
29 David Ragan 0 303 -397
30 Aric Almirola 0 268 -432

Where They Stand

Jamie McMurray has dropped to the playoff bubble. (Photo: Nigel Kinrade/NKP)

(All But) Locked In

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

Safe (For Now)

More Work to Do

  • Chase Elliott, Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray
    • Without a surprise winner or team collapse, the three remaining points drivers appear poised to clinch the final remaining playoff spots.

On the Bubble

Within Reach 

  • Clint Bowyer
    • Bowyer can still theoretically get in on points with two strong runs and a nightmare for one of his above competitors, but in truth he’ll likely need a win.

Likely Need to Win

  • Joey Logano, Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez, Trevor Bayne, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Paul Menard, Ty Dillon, 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 Busch 20
3 Kyle Larson 18
4 Jimmie Johnson 16
5 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

The path to the championship will go through Martin Truex, Jr. and Kyle Busch. (Photo: Rusty Jarrett/NKP)

Playoff Points if Playoffs Started Today
Rank Driver Playoff Points
1 Martin Truex Jr. 50
2 Kyle Busch 30
3 Kyle Larson 28
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 Kyle Busch 10 (+1 Playoff Point) 1 Matt Kenseth 10 (+1 Playoff Point)
2 Erik Jones 9 2 Jimmie Johnson 9
3 Kyle Larson 8 3 Kevin Harvick 8
4 Chase Elliott 7 4 Ryan Newman 7
5 Matt Kenseth 6 5 Erik Jones 6
6 Denny Hamlin 5 6 Kyle Larson 5
7 Ryan Blaney 4 7 Denny Hamlin 4
8 Joey Logano 3 8 Kyle Busch 3
9 Martin Truex Jr. 2 9 Paul Menard 2
10 Jimmie Johnson 1 10 Clint Bowyer 1

Season Totals

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Stage Points
Driver Total Stage Points Stage Wins
Martin Truex Jr. 314 15
Kyle Larson 249 3
Kyle Busch 244 10
Kevin Harvick 205 3
Brad Keselowski 192 4
Ryan Blaney 168 3
Matt Kenseth 166 3
Denny Hamlin 142 2
Chase Elliott 139 2
Jimmie Johnson 138 1
Jamie McMurray 125
Erik Jones 106
Joey Logano 105 1
Kurt Busch 72
Clint Bowyer 67 1
Ryan Newman 46
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
Paul Menard 6
Ty Dillon 5

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