The final two playoff spots will be decided in the Brickyard 400.
Two spots are all that’s left on the playoff grid as five drivers officially clinched their place in the postseason after a 500 long miles in Darlington. A win did the job for Erik Jones, but he and his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team were already safely inside the grid on points.
Also clinching their spots were Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, William Byron, and Aric Almirola. This will be the first appearance for Byron in the playoffs. For Almirola, he didn’t get the best result in Darlington, but by locking up his playoff spot stopped the bleeding as he’d lost a fistful of points after the two previous weeks, where he finished outside the top 25.
“That’s what happens,” said Almirola. “It’s really, really hard to unload a backup car and not get any laps on it. I put our race team behind on Friday and wrecked our primary car and then we just battled all night.
“At the beginning of the race we had a 30th-place car, and we worked on it all night and fought really hard and got out of here with a 17th-place finish, so I’m actually real proud of that. I know it’s crazy to be proud of a 17th-place finish, but that’s the kind of fight and perseverance and determination that I feel like will pay off in the playoffs.”
Kyle Busch clinched the regular-season championship in Darlington and also added another playoff point through a stage win. The same can be said for Kurt Busch.
The good news for Stewart-Haas Racing is that its other two drivers are both sitting inside the playoff grid with one race to go. Clint Bowyer leapfrogged teammate Daniel Suarez to put himself 15th on the grid while Suarez is holding down the final spot on a tie-breaker over Ryan Newman.
Jimmie Johnson is the only other driver who can still mathematically make the playoffs on points. Everyone behind Johnson in the overall point standings must win at Indianapolis to steal a spot in the postseason.
Here is the playoff grid as it currently stands with one race to go, with a reminder the grid will be reseeded at the end of the regular season when additional points are awarded to the top 10. Kyle Busch is the overall championship point leader.
Kyle Busch: 4 race wins, 30 playoff points
Denny Hamlin: 4 race wins, 23 playoff points
Martin Truex Jr.: 4 race wins, 23 playoff points
Brad Keselowski: 3 race wins, 19 playoff points
Joey Logano: 2 race wins, 17 playoff points
Kevin Harvick: 2 race wins, 14 playoff points
Chase Elliott: 2 race wins, 14 playoff points
Kurt Busch: 1 race win, 8 playoff points
Alex Bowman: 1 race win, 5 playoff points
Erik Jones: 1 race win, 5 playoff points
Kyle Larson: clinched, 4 playoff points
Ryan Blaney clinched, 2 playoff points
William Byron: clinched, 1 playoff point
Aric Almirola: clinched, 1 playoff points
Clint Bowyer: +8 on cutline, 0 playoff points
Daniel Suarez: +0 on cutline, 0 playoff points
Below the cutoff line is Ryan Newman (-0), Jimmie Johnson (-18), Paul Menard (-69), and Chris Buescher (-86).