Playoff Points: Martinsville 2 Edition

Nigel Kinrade/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: Martinsville Speedway

Event: First Data 500

Race Winner: Kyle Busch

Stage Winner(s): Brad Keselowski (Won Both Stages)

Who Won Big

  • Kyle Busch: He was dominant early, but in the late stages Rowdy appeared to be en-route top a finish around fourth. Then, chaos ensued. Now Busch heads to Texas Motor Speedway with a win in-hand, securing a NASCAR-best third-consecutive berth into the Championship 4.
  • Martin Truex Jr.: Truex was the lone contender who didn’t spring for heavy contact late to try to claim a win, which resulted in a second-place finish. However, while he didn’t win, Truex left Martinsville with a 67-point edge on the playoff bubble – enough to clinch a Championship 4 position with a good run in Texas – and did so without making any enemies in the process.
  • Brad Keselowski: He didn’t earn what he declared a “must-win” on Sunday after a restart gone awry, but Keselowski did claim both stages and finish in the top five – giving himself a 29-point edge in the process.

Who Hurt Their Odds:

  • Chase Elliott: What could have been. Elliott was leading late after moving Keselowski when heavy contact from Denny Hamlin sent him around. Now the sophomore remains winless, and trails a position in the top four by 26 points with just two races to make up ground.
  • Denny Hamlin: Coming to the white flag, it looked like Hamlin might be on his way to a pivotal Martinsville victory. Instead he was sent backwards by Busch, spun off of Ryan Blaney’s bumper and left his home state with an eight-point gap on the Championship 4. Given that, and any potential payback from Elliott for their run-in, Hamlin’s run at Martinsville was ultimately a net loss.
  • Jimmie Johnson: He didn’t have a horrible day at Martinsville, but Johnson fell short of contention in what was likely he and Hendrick Motorsports’ best shot at winning their way to Homestead-Miami Speedway. Now Johnson will need a win or strong runs at Texas – one of his best tracks – and Phoenix Raceway to keep his chase for an eight title alive.

Playoff Standings: 

Rank Driver Wins In Round Points Points Ahead/Behind Cutoff
1 Kyle Busch 1 4100 50
2 Martin Truex Jr. 0 4117 67
3 Brad Keselowski 0 4079 29
4 Kevin Harvick 0 4053 3
Championship 4 Cutoff
5 Jimmie Johnson 0 4050 -3
6 Ryan Blaney 0 4047 -6
7 Denny Hamlin 0 4045 -8
8 Chase Elliott 0 4027 -26

Where They Stand

Kyle Busch is back in the Championship 4. (Photo: Rusty Jarrett/NKP)

Safe (For Now)

  • Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr.
    • Busch stamped his third-straight Championship 4 ticket with a win in Martinsville.
    • Truex’s second-place result has him one good run from clinching a spot in the Championship 4.

More Work to Do

  • Brad Keselowski
    • With a 29-point edge, Keselowski can afford one minor issues and stay afloat. That said, anything catastrophic could still be fatal to his title hopes.

On the Bubble

  • Kevin Harvick

Within Reach 

  • Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin
    • Hamlin was one lap from a victory in Martinsville, but dropped back after contact with Busch. Now he’ll need another good result to jump into the top four.

Likely Need to Win

  • Chase Elliott
    • How quickly things change. Elliott appeared poised for his first win until contact with Hamlin sent him around. Now Elliott will likely need a win to stay afloat.

Playoff Points

Total Playoff Points – Playoff Contenders
Rank Driver Playoff Points
1 Martin Truex Jr. 69
2 Kyle Busch 47
3 Brad Keselowski 28
4 (tie) Kevin Harvick 17
4 (tie) Jimmie Johnson 17
6 Denny Hamlin 14
7 Ryan Blaney 9
8 Chase Elliott 6

Martin Truex Jr. is one good run from making the Championship 4 due to his healthy playoff point advantage. (Photo: Nigel Kinrade/NKP)

Potential Playoff Points Earned On-Track
Rank Driver Playoff Points
1 Martin Truex, Jr. 54
2 Kyle Busch 39
3 Kyle Larson 24
4 Brad Keselowski 23
5 Jimmie Johnson 16
6 (tie) Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. 10
6 (tie) Kevin Harvick 10
8 Ryan Blaney 9
9 Denny Hamlin 8
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 Brad Keselowski 10 (+1 Playoff Point) 1 Brad Keselowski 10 (+1 Playoff Point)
2 Kyle Busch 9 2 Kyle Busch 9
3 Joey Logano 8 3 Joey Logano 8
4 Jimmie Johnson 7 4 Martin Truex Jr. 7
5 Martin Truex Jr. 6 5 Chase Elliott 6
6 Chase Elliott 5 6 Ryan Blaney 5
7 Ryan Blaney 4 7 Kevin Harvick 4
8 Kasey Kahne 3 8 Matt Kenseth 3
9 Austin Dillon 2 9 Clint Bowyer 2
10 Denny Hamlin 1 10 Jimmie Johnson 1

Playoff Totals

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Stage Points
Driver Playoff Stage Points Round of 8 Round of 12 Round of 16 Playoff Stage Wins
Kyle Busch 86 18 24 44 3
Brad Keselowski 83 20 27 36 4
Chase Elliott 72 11 31 30 1
Kevin Harvick 67 4 41 22 2
Martin Truex Jr. 64 13 10 41 1
Denny Hamlin 53 1 29 23 1
Kyle Larson (e) 51 0 11 40 1
Ryan Blaney 47 9 30 8 1
Matt Kenseth (e) 44 3 21 20
Jimmie Johnson 34 8 20 6
Kurt Busch (e) 21 0 18 3
Jamie McMurray (e) 21 0 19 2
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (e) 14 0 7 7
Austin Dillon (e) 7 2 5 0
Kasey Kahne (e) 4 3 1 0
Ryan Newman (e) 0 0 0 0

Season Totals

Driver Total Stage Points Stage Wins
Martin Truex Jr. 489 19
Kyle Busch 329 14
Kyle Larson 324 4
Kevin Harvick 289 5
Brad Keselowski 272 6
Matt Kenseth 225 3
Denny Hamlin 217 3
Ryan Blaney 205 4
Chase Elliott 198 3
Jimmie Johnson 195 1
Jamie McMurray 157
Erik Jones 152
Joey Logano 142 1
Kurt Busch 138
Clint Bowyer 100 1
Ryan Newman 75
Dale Earnhardt Jr. 57
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 50
Kasey Kahne 41
Austin Dillon 27
Danica Patrick 26
Daniel Suarez 25 1
Trevor Bayne 24
A.J. Allmendinger 22
Michael McDowell 22
David Ragan 9
Paul Menard 7
Ty Dillon 6

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