Playoff Points: Phoenix 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: Phoenix Raceway

Event: Can-Am 500

Race Winner: Matt Kenseth

Stage Winner(s): Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin

Who Won Big

Brad Keselowski did just enough to advance in Phoenix. (Photo: Matthew T. Thacker/NKP)

  • Brad Keselowski: Only one of the five remaining drivers that hadn’t already clinched a berth in the Championship 4 was set to earn a spot in the title fight leaving Phoenix Raceway. In the end that one was Keselowski. The Michigander struggled heavily in Phoenix, but benefitted from the crashes of Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson, struggles of Ryan Blaney and failure to win by Chase Elliott to keep his championship hopes alive.

Who Hurt Their Odds:

  • Chase Elliott: So close. Elliott was within a few laps of a victory in two of the three races in the Round of 8, but his failure deliver either win means the Georgian has been eliminated from the championship conversation. He’ll get one last chance to win in the No. 24 before changing to the No. 9 in 2018.
  • Jimmie Johnson: Superman’s Chase for an eighth Cup Series title just wasn’t mean to be this year. An early flat tire knocked Johnson out of the conversation before his fellow competitors, leaving him outside of the Championship 4 and unable to defend his 2016 title.
  • Denny Hamlin: You reap what you sow, or so it appears. Hamlin was poised to advance on points after strong runs in Sunday’s two stages when contact from Elliott – an apparent sign of retribution for the pair’s run-in at Martinsville Speedway – left Hamlin with a flat tire and a trip into the outside wall. Once again Phoenix proved to be the Joe Gibbs Racing veteran’s kryptonite.
  • Ryan Blaney: After entering Phoenix with distant odds of advancement, Blaney struggled throughout the majority of the afternoon. The sophomore failed to tally enough stage points to contend for a Championship 4 spot on points, and couldn’t elevate himself into the battle for the win as the laps wound down. Instead he exited the postseason quietly, bowing out in the semifinals in his final planned season with Wood Brothers Racing.

Playoff Standings: 

Rank Driver Wins In Round Points Points Ahead/Behind Cutoff
1 Kevin Harvick 0 5000 N/A
2 Kyle Busch 0 5000 N/A
3 Martin Truex Jr. 0 5000 N/A
4 Brad Keselowski 0 5000 N/A

Where They Stand

Safe (For Now)

More Work to Do

On the Bubble

Within Reach 

Likely Need to Win

  • Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski
    • No one’s been able to claim the title without a victory in the first three editions of the modernized playoff format. And while this season’s new format altered the year leading up to this point, the season finale’s highest-finisher-take-all format remains unchanged. Expect the champion to celebrate both a race and title win until proven otherwise.

Playoff Points

Martin Truex Jr. rode his playoff point advantage to a Championship 4 berth. (Photo: Logan Whitton/NKP)

Potential Playoff Points Earned On-Track
Rank Driver Playoff Points
1 Martin Truex, Jr. 54
2 Kyle Busch 39
3 Kyle Larson 26
4 Brad Keselowski 23
5 (tie) Jimmie Johnson 16
5 (tie) Kevin Harvick 16
7 Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. 10
8 (tie) Ryan Blaney 9
8 (tie) Denny Hamlin 9
10 Matt Kenseth 8
11 (tie) Kurt Busch 5
11 (tie) Ryan Newman 5
11 (tie) Austin Dillon 5
11 (tie) Kasey Kahne 5
15 Chase Elliott 3
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 Larson 10 (+1 Playoff Point) 1 Denny Hamlin 10 (+1 Playoff Point)
2 Denny Hamlin 9 2 Matt Kenseth 9
3 Chase Elliott 8 3 Erik Jones 8
4 Kevin Harvick 7 4 Martin Truex Jr. 7
5 Matt Kenseth 6 5 Kyle Busch 6
6 Kyle Busch 5 6 Kevin Harvick 5
7 Erik Jones 4 7 Jamie McMurray 4
8 Martin Truex Jr. 3 8 Ryan Newman 3
9 Ryan Newman 2 9 Chase Elliott 2
10 Jimmie Johnson 1 10 Clint Bowyer 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
Kevin Harvick 98 35 41 22 3
Kyle Busch 97 29 24 44 3
Martin Truex Jr. 90 39 10 41 1
Chase Elliott 88 27 31 30 1
Denny Hamlin 85 33 29 23 2
Brad Keselowski 83 20 27 36 4
Kyle Larson (e) 78 27 11 40 3
Matt Kenseth (e) 66 25 21 20
Ryan Blaney 58 20 30 8 1
Jimmie Johnson 42 9 20 13
Kurt Busch (e) 31 10 18 3
Jamie McMurray (e) 27 4 19 4
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (e) 14 0 7 7
Austin Dillon (e) 10 5 5 0
Ryan Newman (e) 5 5 0 0
Kasey Kahne (e) 4 3 1 0

Season Totals

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Stage Points
Driver Totals Stage Wins
Martin Truex Jr. 440 19
Kyle Busch 360 14
Kyle Larson 357 6
Kevin Harvick 321 6
Brad Keselowski 292 8
Matt Kenseth 247 3
Denny Hamlin 244 4
Chase Elliott 229 3
Ryan Blaney 226 4
Jimmie Johnson 179 1
Erik Jones 164
Jamie McMurray 159
Joey Logano 155 1
Kurt Busch 110
Clint Bowyer 93 1
Ryan Newman 53
Dale Earnhardt Jr. 44
Kasey Kahne 40
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 36
Austin Dillon 33
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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