Playoff Points: Chicagoland Edition

Barry Cantrell/NKP

By Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Editor

Following each 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: Chicagoland Speedway

Event: Tales of the Turtles 400

Race Winner: Martin Truex Jr.

Stage Winner(s): Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott

Who Won Big

  • Martin Truex Jr.: His No. 78 team made mistakes and trapped themselves deep in the field, but it mattered not. Truex drove to the lead and, ultimately, the win – upping his playoff point total to 58 while guaranteeing himself into the Round of 12. The championship goes through Furniture Row Racing.
  • Chase Elliott: He played the role of bridesmaid once more, but Elliott’s strong afternoon in Illinois was enough to elevate the Georgian to a 33-point cushion on the bubble. Without wins Elliott is going to need consistency to advance through the playoffs. Runs like Sunday’s will help.
  • Kevin Harvick: He didn’t quite have a race-winning car, but Harvick delivered a strong top-five performance to rise 41 points clear of elimination in Chicagoland. The 2014 Cup Series champ can now afford one mistake over the next two races.

Who Hurt Their Odds:

  • Kurt Busch: Ouch. Busch was running inside of the top five at one point in the second half of Sunday’s race, but a vibration required the Daytona 500 winner to come to pit road, where a speeding penalty derailed his day. Now the elder Busch brother sits directly on the cutoff line, with work to do over the next two weeks.
  • Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: From a trip into the outside wall to a late penalty on pit road, Stenhouse suffered through a torrid day in the Land of Lincoln. Roush Fenway Racing’s lone playoff entrant ran the worst of all playoff contenders, but is only four points out of the top 12 leaving Illinois thanks to the playoff points for his two regular season wins. The No. 16 team is still in contention, but can’t afford any more execution issues moving forward.
  • Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman: These two veterans of the sport were also two of the worst contenders on-track on Sunday. Neither managed to contend for anything meaningful throughout the afternoon, and both drivers find themselves outside of the top 12 leaving Chicagoland because of it. Their performance has to improve at New Hampshire and Dover.

Playoff Standings: 

Rank Driver Wins In Round Points Points Ahead/Behind Cutoff
1 Martin Truex Jr. 1 2102 76
2 Kyle Larson 0 2075 49
3 Kevin Harvick 0 2067 41
4 (tie) Brad Keselowski 0 2061 35
4 (tie) Kyle Busch 0 2061 35
6 Chase Elliott 0 2059 33
7 Denny Hamlin 0 2058 32
8 Jimmie Johnson 0 2046 20
9 Matt Kenseth 0 2039 13
10 Ryan Blaney 0 2034 8
11 Jamie McMurray 0 2031 5
12 (tie) Austin Dillon 0 2026 0
Round of 12 Cutoff
12 (tie) Kurt Busch 0 2026 0
14 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 0 2022 -4
15 Kasey Kahne 0 2021 -5
16 Ryan Newman 0 2019 -7

Where They Stand

Many playoff hopefuls suffered setbacks in the postseason opener. (Photo: Barry Cantrell/NKP)

Safe (For Now)

  • Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Larson
    • Truex is safe with a win.
    • Larson holds a healthy advantage in points.

More Work to Do

  • Kevin Harvick
    • Harvick is 41 points clear, but one mistake from falling back into the clutches of his competitors.

On the Bubble

  • Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Blaney, Jamie McMurray, Austin Dillon

Within Reach 

  • Kurt Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman

Likely Need to Win

Playoff Points

Total Playoff Points
Rank Driver Playoff Points
1 Martin Truex Jr. 58
2 Kyle Larson 33
3 Kyle Busch 30
4 Brad Keselowski 19
5 Jimmie Johnson 17
6 Kevin Harvick 15
7 Jimmie Johnson 13
8 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 10
9 Ryan Blaney 8
10 Chase Elliott 7
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 3

Martin Truex Jr. added to his advantage at Chicagoland Speedway. (Photo: Barry Cantrell/NKP)

Potential Playoff Points Earned On-Track
Rank Driver Playoff Points
1 Martin Truex, Jr. 43
2 Kyle Larson 23
3 Kyle Busch 22
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 Chase Elliott 3
15 Matt Kenseth 2
16 (tie) Joey Logano 1
16 (tie) Clint Bowyer 1
16 (tie) Daniel Suarez 1

Stage Points

Previous Race Results

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

Playoff Totals

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Stage Points
Driver Playoff Stage Points Playoff Stage Wins
Chase Elliott 18 1
Kevin Harvick 18
Denny Hamlin 12
Brad Keselowski 11
Kyle Busch 10 1
Kyle Larson 10
Martin Truex Jr. 9
Matt Kenseth 6
Kurt Busch 3
Jamie McMurray 1
Ryan Blaney 0
Jimmie Johnson 0
Ryan Newman 0
Kasey Kahne 0
Austin Dillon 0
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 0

Season Totals

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Stage Points
Driver Total Stage Points Stage Wins
Martin Truex Jr. 357 18
Kyle Larson 283 3
Kyle Busch 273 12
Kevin Harvick 244 3
Brad Keselowski 220 4
Matt Kenseth 190 3
Denny Hamlin 177 2
Ryan Blaney 167 3
Jimmie Johnson 162 1
Chase Elliott 155 3
Jamie McMurray 135
Joey Logano 133 1
Erik Jones 132
Kurt Busch 120
Clint Bowyer 86 1
Ryan Newman 75
Dale Earnhardt Jr. 53
Kasey Kahne 40
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 36
Daniel Suarez 23 1
Austin Dillon 22
Trevor Bayne 22
A.J. Allmendinger 22
Danica Patrick 20
Michael McDowell 18
David Ragan 7
Paul Menard 7
Ty Dillon 6

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