Playoff Points: Texas 2 Edition

Matthew T. Thacker/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: Texas Motor Speedway

Event: AAA Texas 500

Race Winner: Kevin Harvick

Stage Winner(s): Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson

Who Won Big

The Closer is going to Homestead-Miami Speedway as a title contender. (Photo: Rusty Jarrett/NKP)

  • Kevin Harvick: Just when he seemed to be a fringe playoff contender at best, Harvick lived up to his ‘Closer’ nickname in a major way with his first Texas win. Now the 2014 Cup Series champion is locked into the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where he stands as good a chance as any to take home the title.
  • Martin Truex Jr.: He fell a handful of laps short of a victory, but in the end Truex did enough to place himself safely into the Championship 4 on points with one race remaining before Homestead. The benefits of a strong season are as great as they’ve been in the playoff era, and Truex is reaping the rewards.
  • Brad Keselowski: It wasn’t an easy day for Keselowski after contact with Kyle Busch left him a lap down early with damage. But Keselowski persevered, finishing fifth and giving himself a 19-point gap over the playoff bubble with one race left in the Round of 8.

Who Hurt Their Odds:

  • Chase Elliott: Sunday’s effort wasn’t enough for Elliott. Fresh off of his controversial spin at Martinsville Speedway, Elliott started at the tail-end of the field and never quite made his way into contention in Texas. The Georgian finished eighth, and left the event 49 points out of the final four. It’ll be win or bust for Elliott at Phoenix Raceway, just like his teammate…
  • Jimmie Johnson: This guy. A brutal day for the defending Cup Series champion at one of his best tracks left him with a 27th-place finish and his fans with more questions than answers. Johnson’s quest for an eighth title will come down to his ability to deliver another clutch performance and take a victory in the Arizona desert.
  • Denny Hamlin and Ryan Blaney: Neither driver did bad in Texas, but Hamlin and Blaney each failed to gain any meaningful ground on Keselowski and the championship cutoff. Unless Keselowski has a poor result, this duo will likely need a victory in Phoenix to keep their championship hopes alive.

Playoff Standings: 

Rank Driver Wins In Round Points Points Ahead/Behind Cutoff
1 Kyle Busch 1 4118 26
2 Kevin Harvick 1 4112 20
3 Martin Truex Jr. 0 4168 76
4 Brad Keselowski 0 4111 19
Championship 4 Cutoff
5 Denny Hamlin 0 4092 -19
6 Ryan Blaney 0 4089 -22
7 Chase Elliott 0 4062 -49
8 Jimmie Johnson 0 4060 -51

Where They Stand

Safe (For Now)

  • Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick Martin Truex Jr.
    • Harvick enters the “safe” group after a pivotal win in Texas.

More Work to Do

  • Brad Keselowski
    • His gap was diminished to 19 points, but two strong stage results in Phoenix and a non-bubble driver winner could all-but deliver Keselowski his first Championship 4 appearance.

On the Bubble

Within Reach 

  • Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin
    • Blaney and Hamlin could potentially close in on Keselowski, but they would need strong stage performances and for Keselowski to have issues if they have any hope of advancing without a win.

Likely Need to Win

  • Chase Elliott, Jimmie Johnson
    • Things are looking dire for Hendrick Motorsports and Chevrolet. If neither Johnson nor Elliott can win in Phoenix, then the Bowtie Brigade will miss out on a Championship 4 berth for the first time in the format’s fourth run.

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 Kevin Harvick 23
5 Jimmie Johnson 17
6 Denny Hamlin 14
7 Ryan Blaney 9
8 Chase Elliott 6

Martin Truex Jr. is back in the Championship 4 courtesy of playoff points. (Photo: Russell LaBounty/NKP)

Potential Playoff Points Earned On-Track
Rank Driver Playoff Points
1 Martin Truex, Jr. 54
2 Kyle Busch 39
3 Kyle Larson 25
4 Brad Keselowski 23
5 (tie) Jimmie Johnson 16
5 (tie) Kevin Harvick 16
7 Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. 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

Pos. Driver Points Pos. Driver Points
1 Kevin Harvick 10 (+1 Playoff Point) 1 Kyle Larson 10 (+1 Playoff Point)
2 Martin Truex Jr. 9 2 Kevin Harvick 9
3 Denny Hamlin 8 3 Ryan Blaney 8
4 Kyle Larson 7 4 Martin Truex Jr. 7
5 Kurt Busch 6 5 Chase Elliott 6
6 Erik Jones 5 6 Denny Hamlin 5
7 Matt Kenseth 4 7 Kurt Busch 4
8 Ryan Blaney 3 8 Matt Kenseth 3
9 Austin Dillon 2 9 Erik Jones 2
10 Daniel Suarez 1 10 Austin Dillon 1

Playoff Totals

Driver Playoff Stage Points Round of 8 Round of 12 Round of 16 Playoff Stage Wins
Kyle Busch 86 18 24 44 3
Kevin Harvick 86 23 41 22 3
Brad Keselowski 83 20 27 36 4
Martin Truex Jr. 80 29 10 41 1
Chase Elliott 78 17 31 30 1
Kyle Larson (e) 68 17 11 40 2
Denny Hamlin 66 14 29 23 1
Ryan Blaney 58 20 30 8 1
Matt Kenseth (e) 51 10 21 20
Jimmie Johnson 41 8 20 13
Kurt Busch (e) 31 10 18 3
Jamie McMurray (e) 23 0 19 4
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (e) 14 0 7 7
Austin Dillon (e) 10 5 5 0
Kasey Kahne (e) 4 3 1 0
Ryan Newman (e) 0 0 0 0

Season Totals

Driver Totals Stage Wins
Martin Truex Jr. 430 19
Kyle Busch 349 14
Kyle Larson 347 5
Kevin Harvick 309 6
Brad Keselowski 292 8
Matt Kenseth 234 3
Ryan Blaney 226 4
Denny Hamlin 225 3
Chase Elliott 219 3
Jimmie Johnson 179 1
Jamie McMurray 155
Joey Logano 155 1
Erik Jones 150
Kurt Busch 111
Clint Bowyer 91 1
Ryan Newman 48
Dale Earnhardt Jr. 44
Kasey Kahne 40
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 36
Austin Dillon 32
Daniel Suarez 25 1
Danica Patrick 24
A.J. Allmendinger 21
Trevor Bayne 20
Michael McDowell 11
David Ragan 9
Paul Menard 6
Ty Dillon 5

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