NASCAR: Racing Towards the Playoffs

(Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series just completed its twenty first race of the 2019 season. The summer stretch is coming to an end, and so is the regular season. There are just five more races to go before the 2019 playoffs begin, and so far this season it’s been one organization dominating.

Joe Gibbs Racing has won eleven of the first twenty one races in 2019. Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. have won four each and Denny Hamlin has won three. The fourth driver for JGR, Erik Jones, is coming off a season best second place finish. Team Penske has won five races, Brad Keselowski has won three and reigning series champion Joey Logano has won twice. The third driver for Penske, Ryan Blaney, has placed as high as third in 2019. Kevin Harvick won six races in 2018, but has only managed to reach victory lane once so far in 2019 in what has been a down year for Stewart-Haas Racing as a whole. Hendrick Motorsports has seemingly found its winning ways once more, with Chase Elliott winning once so far in 2019 and Alex Bowman getting his first career victory in the Cup Series just a month ago. Kurt Busch joined a historic club in NASCAR’s top series, becoming one of a handful of drivers to win with four different organizations with his win at Kentucky. At NASCAR’s most prestigous track, the Daytona International Speedway, on July 4th weekend, twenty year old Justin Haley pulled off an upset when he won a rained shortened race in just his third career start in the Cup Series and just the eighteenth start for the organization he drives part time for, Spire Motorsports.

So that’s where we are through twenty one races. Ten winners, but only nine of them are playoff eligible. Justin Haley is not playoff eligible because he does not race full time in the Cup Series plus he is not declared for Cup Series points, he is only declared for NASCAR Xfinity Series points where he races full time. The nine drivers who are playoff eligible are locked into the playoffs via NASCAR’s “win and you’re in” policy regarding making the playoffs. In all, sixteen drivers will make the playoffs. Some of the drivers competing for entry into the playoffs include seven time champion Jimmie Johnson, Stewart-Haas Racing drivers Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola, and Daniel Suarez, Chip Gannasi driver Kyle Larson, and Roush-Fenway driver Ryan Newman amognst others.

The remaining schedule is tough. Track consistency is not on the side of the teams, with a variety of formats coming up. This Sunday, the Cup Series heads to the second of three road courses at Watkins Glen. That followed by a two mile oval with speeds upwards of 210 mph at the Michigan International Speedway. Following Michigan will be a one mile short track at Bristol. Following Bristol will be the 1.366 mile egg shaped track at the famed Darlington Raceway, and the regular season closes at the 2.5 mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

These five different variants of tracks will make things tough for all the teams still trying to make the playoffs, but will certainly be entertaining for the fans to watch.

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