Three drivers will be stress free during the elimination race at Charlotte after clinching their Round of 12 playoff spots early.
Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch both earned top-10 finishes Saturday night at Richmond, which padded their points total on the playoff cutline to ensure they can’t be eliminated. Harvick finished seventh while Busch was the runner-up, and both move on in the postseason alongside Martin Truex Jr., who has won the first two races in this round.
“It’ll be a nice week at home,” said Harvick. “The biggest thing is you want to go try and learn what you need to do to run fast there (Charlotte Roval), so this week we’ll go to the simulator and try to transfer that to the racetrack and see how practice goes and then we’ll see how the weekend goes. You definitely still want to go there and get a race win or something that will go forward with you and also learn something for the future.”
Busch will also be approaching the road course differently.
“For us just trying to get stage points and trying to get a win if we can get a win,” he said. “We can really go there and attacked and not worry about a whole lot.”
Here are the drivers above the cutline going into Charlotte:
- Martin Truex Jr. – clinched
- Kevin Harvick – clinched
- Kyle Busch – clinched
- Brad Keselowski +55
- Denny Hamlin +54
- Joey Logano +50
- Chase Elliott +37
- Kyle Larson +25
- Ryan Newman +14
- Ryan Blaney +8
- Aric Almirola +3
- William Byron +2
Three of the four drivers below the cutline have a good chance at advancing through points. With Hendrick Motorsports driver Byron above the cutline, it puts fellow HMS driver Alex Bowman the first on the outside. He had a rough night and finished 23rd.
“We qualified third and ran fourth there last year,” Bowman said of the Roval. “So, we just have to get stage points and have a good day all day. If we don’t make the next round, we don’t really deserve to be there with how we are running right now. It’s definitely a bummer, but we have to get our stuff together.”
Clint Bowyer was expecting more from Richmond but said his Stewart-Haas Racing team did what they had to. Bowyer finished eighth.
“We gave ourselves a fighting chance going into Charlotte,” said Bowyer. “I knew Richmond was going to be an opportunity; we semi-capitalized on that opportunity, but looking forward to Charlotte. It’s going to be fun for everybody involved. It’s do or die time. It’s the playoffs. You watch these football teams go through these playoffs and how exciting it is, and it’s our turn to have that nerve-racking moments and do-or-die moments for your race team and your season, but I’m looking forward to it.”
Kurt Busch is just above Jones on the playoff grid and didn’t have much to say after finishing 18th Saturday night.
“That wasn’t what we planned — we struggled tonight,” said Busch. “Let’s go get ’em at the Roval.”
Erik Jones, who had his fourth-place finish disqualified after his car failed post-race inspection, most likely needs to win the Charlotte race.
Below the cutline looks like this:
- Alex Bowman -2
- Clint Bowyer -4
- Kurt Busch -14
- Erik Jones -45