Playoff Points: Darlington 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: Darlington Raceway

Event: Bojangles Southern 500

Race Winner: Denny Hamlin

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

Who Won Big

Denny Hamlin made a playoff statement in a strong night at Darlington Raceway. (Photo: Nigel Kinrade/NKP)

  • Denny Hamlin: What a comeback – both in on-track and in the championship. Hamlin’s recovery from a 23-second gap after a pit road error was enough to give the Virginian his second victory of the year, and the additional five playoff points that accompany a win. Suddenly the Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) veteran has a respectable 12 playoff points, with the potential to enter the postseason with 18 of them due to his points position.
  • Martin Truex Jr.: Regular season champion, MTJ. As if Truex’s 16th and 17th stage wins weren’t enough, the New Jersey native also clinched the regular season championship at Darlington, giving him a staggering 52 confirmed stage points heading to Richmond International Raceway.
  • Matt Kenseth: Once again Kenseth fell short of victory lane while his teammate battled for the victory, but the JGR veteran’s sixth-place finish helped him stay a part of the current three-way battle for the final three spots on the playoff bubble with Chase Elliott and Jamie McMurray. With the potential for a surprise winner next week still

Who Hurt Their Odds:

  • Everyone Outside of the Current Playoff Grid: No one in need of a victory to make the playoffs came close at Darlington, with rookie Erik Jones serving as the only one to finish inside of the top 10.
  • Clint Bowyer: Bowyer had managed to maintain an outside shot at playoff eligibility on points in the weeks before Darlington, but lost control of that possibility early on Sunday when his No. 14 was beset by mechanical issues in the opening laps of the Southern 500. He’ll need a win like any others outside of the playoffs if he wants to crack the postseason field.

Playoff Standings: 

Rank Driver Wins Points Points Ahead/Behind Cutoff
1 Martin Truex Jr. 4 1000 357
3 Kyle Larson 3 884 241
10 Jimmie Johnson 3 653 10
2 Kyle Busch 2 893 250
5 Denny Hamlin 2 810 167
6 Brad Keselowski 2 761 118
18 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 2 536 -107
4 Kevin Harvick 1 867 224
12 Ryan Blaney 1 629 -14
13 Kurt Busch 1 624 -19
16 Ryan Newman 1 604 -39
21 Kasey Kahne 1 464 -179
19 Austin Dillon 1 473 -170
7 Chase Elliott 0 737 94
8 Matt Kenseth 0 735 92
9 Jamie McMurray 0 734 91
Playoff Cutoff
11 Clint Bowyer 0 643 -91
15 Joey Logano 1* 605 -129
14 Erik Jones 0 611 -123
17 Daniel Suarez 0 538 -196
20 Trevor Bayne 0 472 -262
22 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 0 431 -303
23 Paul Menard 0 429 -305
24 Ty Dillon 0 419 -315
25 Chris Buescher 0 407 -327
26 Michael McDowell 0 396 -338
27 A.J. Allmendinger 0 384 -350
28 Danica Patrick 0 363 -371
29 David Ragan 0 315 -419
30 Aric Almirola 0 285 -449

Where They Stand

The majority of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ winless drivers will need a triumph at Richmond to make the postseason. (Photo: John K Harrelson / Harrelson Photography Inc.)

(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)

  • Chase Elliott, Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray
    • Safe on points as long as there isn’t a surprise winner.

More Work to Do

On the Bubble

Within Reach 

Likely Need to Win

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

Playoff Points

Playoff Points Earned
Rank Driver Playoff Points
1 Martin Truex, Jr. 37
2 Kyle Busch 20
3 Kyle Larson 18
4 Jimmie Johnson 16
5 Brad Keselowski 14
6 Denny Hamlin 12
7 Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. 10
8 (tie) Ryan Blaney 8
8 (tie) Kevin Harvick 8
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

Martin Truex Jr. soared to two stage wins at Darlington Raceway, claiming the regular season title in the process. (Photo: Nigel Kinrade/NKP)

Playoff Points if Playoffs Started Today
Rank Driver Playoff Points
1 Martin Truex Jr. 52
2 Kyle Busch 30
3 Kyle Larson 26
4 Kevin Harvick 22
5 Brad Keselowski 19
6 Denny Hamlin 18
7 Jimmie Johnson 17
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
11 (tie) Matt Kenseth 5
16 Jamie McMurray 2

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 Larson 9 2 Denny Hamlin 9
3 Denny Hamlin 8 3 Kevin Harvick 8
4 Kevin Harvick 7 4 Kyle Larson 7
5 Brad Keselowski 6 5 Kyle Busch 6
6 Erik Jones 5 6 Brad Keselowski 5
7 Jamie McMurray 4 7 Kurt Busch 4
8 Joey Logano 3 8 Jamie McMurray 3
9 Kyle Busch 2 9 Austin Dillon 2
10 Austin Dillon 1 10 Matt Kenseth 1

Season Totals

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Stage Points
Driver Total Stage Points Stage Wins
Martin Truex Jr. 334 17
Kyle Larson 265 3
Kyle Busch 252 10
Kevin Harvick 220 3
Brad Keselowski 203 4
Ryan Blaney 168 3
Matt Kenseth 167 3
Denny Hamlin 159 2
Chase Elliott 139 2
Jimmie Johnson 138 1
Jamie McMurray 132
Erik Jones 111
Joey Logano 108 1
Kurt Busch 76
Clint Bowyer 67 1
Ryan Newman 46
Dale Earnhardt Jr. 36
Kasey Kahne 36
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 22
Austin Dillon 22
AJ Allmendinger 21
Daniel Suarez 20 1
Trevor Bayne 18
Danica Patrick 18
David Ragan 7
Michael McDowell 7
Paul Menard 6
Ty Dillon 5

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