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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup

Elite 8: Where The Monster Energy Drivers Stand After Kansas

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Martin Truex Jr. will lead a field of eight drivers into Round 3 of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, which begin next Sunday at Martinsville Speedway.

Four of the Cup playoff drivers were eliminated during the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway, where Truex claimed his series-high seventh victory over Kurt Busch, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin.

Knocked out of the playoffs at Kansas were Jamie McMurray, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kyle Larson and Matt Kenseth.

Here are the eight drivers who remain in contention to win the 2017 Cup championship:

  1. Martin Truex Jr., 4069 points

The regular-season points leader and the driver with the most race victories (7), Truex won three of the first six playoff races in his Furniture Row Racing Toyota, including Kansas, where he swept this year. He has so many bonus points that it’s hard to imagine any scenario where he doesn’t make it to the championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

  1. Kyle Busch, 4042 points

The No. 2 seed heading into this round of the playoffs, Busch had terrible races at both Charlotte, where he finished 29th in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, and Talladega, where he was 27th. He came into Kansas in ninth place but now heads into Round 3 of the playoffs, where he could prove to be a very dangerous opponent. His big break at Kansas was Kyle Larson losing his engine and being eliminated from title contention.

  1. Brad Keselowski, 4026 points

A victory in the chaotic mayhem at Talladega locked Keselowski into the Round of 8. And while he was the champion in 2012, for most of the year, the Team Penske Fords have been down on speed relative to the Toyotas on 1.5-mile tracks.

  1. Kevin Harvick, 4017 points

The 2014 Cup champion, Harvick had a rocket ship underneath him all weekend as the Stewart-Haas Racing Ford was wicked fast from the moment it rolled off the trailer. Harvick and SHR are already a championship-proven team and could very well win a second title this year.

  1. Jimmie Johnson, 4017 points

So far, the playoffs haven’t been very Jimmie Johnson-like for the seven-time Cup champion. In the first five playoff races, Johnson only had one top-five finish and only led one race. Johnson was the bubble driver coming into Kansas and spun twice, seemingly about to fall out of contention, but he rallied to finish 11th.

  1. Denny Hamlin, 4014 points

So far in the playoffs, Hamlin’s flown a little bit under the radar in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, but he’s come close to a championship before and has three excellent tracks coming up for him in Round 3.

  1. Ryan Blaney, 4009 points

The pole qualifier at Kansas in the spring, Blaney had to start Sunday’s race dead last, after his Wood Brothers Racing Ford failed inspection after time trials. Despite that obstacle, and despite having only a narrow points margin, Blaney was able to advance in this, his first appearance in the playoffs.

  1. Chase Elliott, 4006 points

In the first four playoff races, Elliott finished second three times, and his consistent excellence allowed him to advance to Round 3 of the playoffs in his second season. But with few playoff points, he’ll have an uphill battle to make the final. Don’t sleep on Elliott — he has four top-five finishes in the six playoff races to date.

Tom Jensen

Tom Jensen is a veteran motorsports journalist. He spent 13 years with, where he was Digital Content Manager. Previously, he was executive editor of NASCAR Scene and managing editor of National Speed Sport News. Jensen served as the president of the National Motorsports Press Association and is the group’s former Writer of the Year.