Friday, 17 January 2020

Playoffs Pulse: Analyzing the field after Texas – NASCAR

Playoffs Pulse: Analyzing the field after Texas – NASCAR
04 Nov

After the second race of the Round of 8 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs at Texas Motor Speedway, here’s a brief look at the playoff picture. Just one race remains in the Round of 8 before the field is whittled to the Championship 4, with four drivers eliminated from the postseason following the race at ISM Raceway near Phoenix on Nov. 10.


Kevin Harvick led a race-high 119 laps to earn victory on Sunday evening at Texas, claiming his fourth win of the season. The victory also adds five playoff points to his total (along with one more he got for winning Stage 1) and locks him into the Championship 4. He is the second driver alongside Martin Truex Jr. to clinch a spot in the championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

RELATED: Unofficial race results

Who’s hot

Kevin Harvick. No surprise that the Texas winner and newest Championship 4 winner is listed here, but it’s not just his dominating victory that gives him this rightful place. Now we’re headed to the last race in the Round of 8 at ISM Raceway, where Harvick has nine career victories. He could steal a win away from someone who needs it (a.k.a. Chase Elliott) and take some huge momentum into Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Joey Logano. After struggling for a portion of the race, Logano was able to salvage a fourth-place finish at Texas, leaving him with a 20-point cushion on the cutline. The defending Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion isn’t a lock for the Championship 4, but the resilient effort should give the No. 22 team a spark going into ISM Raceway where it has been hit or miss.

Who’s not

Chase Elliott. The Round of 8 has not been kind to Elliott, after a broken axle plagued what appeared to be a strong showing at Martinsville. At Texas, Elliott’s playoff hopes took an even bigger hit on Lap 9 when he slipped out of the top groove in Turns 1 and 2, sliding hard into the outside wall. The No. 9 team feverishly made repairs on pit road to finish the race, but a 32nd-place result leaves him 78 points below the cutline and officially puts him in a must-win situation next Sunday at ISM Raceway.

Denny Hamlin. Disaster struck for the spring Texas winner on Sunday, losing control at the exit of Turn 4, receiving significant damage to the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota after sliding through the frontstretch grass. Hamlin took a big hit in the playoff standings after a finish of 28th, coming into the race with a 24-point cushion and leaving Texas 20 points below the cutline. Adding insult to injury, only one driver has raced his way into the Championship 4 after entering ISM Raceway below the cutline — Harvick made it in 2014, overcoming a six-point deficit.


Rank Driver Points to cutoff
1. Martin Truex Jr. WIN
2. Kevin Harvick WIN
3. Kyle Busch +22
4. Joey Logano +20
————— CUT-OFF LINE —————
5. Denny Hamlin -20
6. Ryan Blaney -23
7. Kyle Larson -23
8. Chase Elliott -78

Next race

The Monster Energy Series travels to ISM Raceway for the penultimate race in the NASCAR Playoffs at the 1.5-mile facility on Nov. 10 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBC/NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Who it favors

Kyle Busch. While ISM Raceway has been Kevin Harvick’s house over the years, it’s been Busch that’s had the mojo on his side recently. Busch has three career victories at the 1-mile Arizona track. Not only has the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing driver taken the checkered flag in the past two events, he also hasn’t finished outside the top seven since the Fall of 2014. Busch’s 20-race winless streak could very well come to an end with a Championship 4 bid on the line.

Who it hurts

Joey Logano. While teammate Ryan Blaney holds the worst average finish at ISM Raceway among the playoff drivers (15.9), it’s Logano who has the most to worry about. While he earned victory in 2016, Logano hasn’t finished better than 10th since then, which contributes negatively to his average finish of 15.2. Logano has a 20-point cushion on the cutline going into the final Round of 8 race, but he needs a better showing to ensure his Miami fate.



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