With the looming unpredictability of the elimination race at the Charlotte road course, only three drivers will be able to breathe easy.
Brad Keselowski locked himself into the Round of 12 with a victory at Las Vegas. Kyle Busch did the same with his seventh win of the season Saturday night at Richmond Raceway.
And Martin Truex Jr. still has a chance to defend his 2017 crown as he clinched a spot in the next round through points.
Truex led a race-high 163 laps in Richmond and won both stages. He had to rally in the final stage to finish third after his Furniture Row Racing team was penalized for an uncontrolled tire during the Stage 2 caution break.
“Yippee!” Truex said about not having to worry about the Charlotte race. “Here we go. It’s going to be fun. I mean, I feel really bad for the guys that are going to go in there and have to do something. I think everybody is scared to death of that place. We’re going to go and have some fun and see if we can’t get some points.”
On the other hand, Truex is still winless at Richmond even though he has dominated the short track in recent years. In his last five starts, Truex has led over 600 laps with one pole but has just two top-five finishes. If there is one track that owes him, Truex said it’s Richmond.
“I don’t know what we’ve got to do to win one of these things,” he said. “God, it’s awful frustrating to come here and be so good and lead so many laps and find every single way possible that just things don’t work out for us. It’s pretty frustrating. But at the same time, it feels good to run that good, and we recovered well and did what we came here to do, which is move on to the next round.
“I wish we would have been in victory lane right now, but in a few days, I guess the pain will go away a little bit, and we’ll be able to go to the Roval and have some fun with no pressure.”
The four drivers sitting below the cutoff line going into Charlotte are Clint Bowyer (-4), Jimmie Johnson (-6), Erik Jones (-21) and Denny Hamlin (-29).