Cup Series playoff picture: Darlington

Image by Matthew Thacker/LAT

Cup Series playoff picture: Darlington


Cup Series playoff picture: Darlington


The fight for the NASCAR postseason has come down to Indianapolis, and the situation is simple: Any driver who is not yet locked into the playoffs and sits inside the top 30 in points will earn a playoff spot if they win the Brickyard 400.

Aric Almirola and Denny Hamlin clinched their playoff spots through points after Darlington, leaving two spots left to fill. Those belong to Jimmie Johnson and Alex Bowman, who have made it mathematically impossible for anyone to overtake them on points.

In addition to watching for a new winner on Sunday, there are other stories at play in the regular season finale.

Johnson and Bowman are separated by 19 points and will battle for the 15th spot on the grid. Why? Because if by some chance the Indianapolis winner does come from outside the playoff grid, the driver who is 16th would then be knocked out. Right now, that is Bowman unless he were to leapfrog Johnson in the points.

Also, the regular season championship and its 15 playoff points are still up for grabs.

Kyle Busch leads Kevin Harvick by 39 points and can clinch the title if he were to score 22 points in Indianapolis. For Busch, the 15 points would be huge as it would pull him equal with Harvick (if neither were to win the race or score a playoff point through winning a stage Sunday) at the top of the playoff grid.

Behind the regular season champion, the rest of the drivers who finish in the top 10 in the standings will also be awarded playoff points to go toward their grid seeding. The scale will go from 10 points to the second-place driver in points, eight points to the third-place driver down to one point for the 10th place driver.

Remember, all the playoff points a driver racks up will move with them through the playoffs if they advance.

Here is where the playoff grid stands going to Indianapolis:

Kevin Harvick: 7 race wins, 40 playoff points (clinched)
Kyle Busch: 6 race wins, 35 playoff points (clinched)
Martin Truex Jr.: 4 race wins, 27 playoff points (clinched)
Clint Bowyer: 2 race wins, 10 playoff points (clinched)

Brad Keselowski: 1 race win, 9 playoff points (clinched)

Joey Logano: 1 race win, 8 playoff points (clinched)

Chase Elliott: 1 race win, 8 playoff points (clinched)
Kurt Busch: 1 race win, 7 playoff points (clinched)
Erik Jones: 1 race win, 5 playoff points (clinched)
Austin Dillon: 1 race win, 5 playoff points (clinched)
Ryan Blaney: 0 race wins, 5 playoff points (clinched)
Kyle Larson: 0 race wins, 2 playoff points (clinched)
Denny Hamlin: 0 race wins, 2 playoff points (clinched)
Aric Almirola: 0 race wins, 1 playoff point (clinched)
Jimmie Johnson: +87 on cutoff, 0 playoff points
Alex Bowman: +68 on cutoff, 0 playoff points

Here are the drivers inside the top 30 in points who can clinch a playoff spot with a win: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ryan Newman, Paul Menard, Daniel Suarez, Jamie McMurray, William Byron, Chris Buescher, AJ Allmendinger, David Ragan, Michael McDowell, Kasey Kahne, Darrell Wallace Jr., Ty Dillon and Matt DiBenedetto.