NASCAR Playoff Field Before Martinsville Cutoff Race

NASCAR Playoff Field Before Martinsville Cutoff Race

by October 30, 2021 0 comments

The final cutoff race of this year’s NASCAR Cup Series Playoff has already arrived. At some point tomorrow evening, we will know the four drivers who will compete for this year’s NASCAR Cup Series Championship in Phoenix next weekend. On the same foot, we will also know the four drivers who got denied at the goal line. As of now Kyle Larson, riding a two-race win streak, is the only driver locked into the Championship Race.

After last weekend in Kansas, the bubble got a whole lot more interesting. Large in part due to Ryan Blaney getting taken out by Austin Dillon late. Which in turn brought Kyle Busch right back into the thick of things after multiple incidents throughout the day. With the gap from fourth to seventh being just six points, things are probably going to get dicey. Oh, and did we mention that it is Martinsville that stands between the title race and an early offseason?

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Controlling Their Own Destiny

No. 9 Chase Elliott– Hendrick Motorsports (34 Points above Cutoff)

It feels worth mentioning at the top that the defending NASCAR Cup Series Champion has only made it back to the Championship Race once since 2017. That being Martin Truex Jr in 2018 where he let Joey Logano ‘win the damn war’. The good news for Elliott here is that he is sitting nicely with a very good shot to defend his title next weekend. So far this round he has a seventh and second heading into Martinsville. He also won this race a year ago in a must-win spot, a situation he does not face this year.

No. 11 Denny Hamlin– Joe Gibbs Racing (32 Points above Cutoff)

Hamlin is virtually in the same spot this Sunday as Elliott, a credit to good runs this round on top of winning stages this year. The added bonus for the Virginia native is that Martinsville is his second-best track on the schedule. The only venue that tops his five wins at the paperclip, is his six at Pocono. Baring absolute catastrophe, a third consecutive trip to the Championship Four feels all but assured.

No. 18 Kyle Busch- Joe Gibbs Racing (One Point above Cutoff)

The bad news for Rowdy Busch is that an absolutely terrible day at Kansas has put him in a brutal spot here. The good news however is that it could have been much worse if a couple of other playoff drivers did not also find trouble. In spite of multiple incidents, all Busch has to do for a third consecutive title race birth is outgain the drivers behind him in points. In addition to hoping none of the four drivers on the outside looking in manage to end up in victory lane. Much easier said than done, but Rowdy still controls his own fate outside of that.

Go Big or Go Home

No. 12 Ryan Blaney- Team Penske (One Point below Cutoff)

Blaney was set to be in an excellent spot going into this weekend. But what could have been a 20-plus point cushion was erased in an incident where he shared zero percent of the blame. In fairness, only being down one point is still a manageable gap for one race, however, that incident with Dillon will likely be circled back to if Blaney is knocked out. The absolute worst-case scenario for Blaney, and for everyone below the cutoff, is a Busch win. Blaney however, in spite of not controlling his own destiny, is in the best spot of drivers below the cutoff.

No. 19 Martin Truex Jr- Joe Gibbs Racing (Three Points below Cutoff)

Truex also would have been in a good spot this weekend, if not for an absolutely brutal hit with 15 to go at Texas. This was partially remedied due to a seventh-place run at Kansas, but the No. 19 team is still on the outside looking in. Some good news is that Truex is close to automatic at the paperclip. In his last 10 starts at Martinsville, he has eight top 10s, six top fives, and three wins. Truex does not control his path to Phoenix, but should still enter this race with confidence.

No. 2 Brad Keselowski– Team Penske (Six Points below Cutoff)

Keselowski does not find himself here for being awful necessarily. While a 17th at Kansas is not great, it was far better than some of the other predicaments some playoff drivers had themselves in. This for Keselowski is just a case of a lack of playoff bonus points coming back to bite him. He is one of two drivers with less than 20 to their name, and the only with under double digits, eight to be exact. Before this spring, Keselowski was on a run of a whopping 10 consecutive top 10s at Martinsville. Keselowski will likely need to do that and then some to go back to Phoenix for the second year in a row.

No. 22 Joey Logano- Team Penske (22 Points below Cutoff)

Easily the biggest shocker of this round is the position that Logano is now in. The sad thing is for him is that it was something completely out of his control. That being a blown engine with under 40 to go at Texas, in a race where he was in contention for a top 10 at the minimum in the closing stages. Not a for sure must-win spot for Logano on Sunday, but it is his best shot to make it to Phoenix.

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