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GALLERY: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Picture Entering ISM

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As we get down to the wire, the cream always seems to rise to the top. Kevin Harvick has shown speed through the playoffs, but watched wins slip away virtue of late race circumstances. That wasn’t the case on Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, as he picked up to win. Harvick’s win, though, keeps the playoff scenario interesting.

After having locked himself in, everything was looking perfect for the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team, until a penalty from NASCAR on Wednesday. Now the tides have once again shifted around.

JOHN HARRELSON | NKP

1. Joey Logano – Locked In

Joey Logano continues to be consistent, as his third-place finish at Texas after winning Martinsville was his eighth straight top-14 in the playoffs. The only concern is the line of drivers who are upset with him – Martin Truex Jr. and Aric Almirola – and whether they’ll take action on their feelings at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

He won at ISM Raceway in 2016, but has followed that with three finishes outside of the top-10.

RUSSELL LABOUNTY | NKP

2. Kyle Busch +28

Kyle Busch did not have the day he wanted in Texas, having a loose wheel along with a pit road penalty en route to finishing 17th. However, with seven wins and the regular season championship, he still maintains a solid advantage over the cut-off line.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver has placed in the top-five in his last six appearances at ISM Raceway.

NIGEL KINRADE | NKP

3. Martin Truex Jr. +25

The concerns about Martin Truex Jr.‘s performance are back on the table, after a loose wheel put him behind the eight-ball at Texas. Thankfully, he rebounded for a ninth-place finish. He will need to avoid running into a similar snag at ISM, or he may fall behind the cut-off line and not able to live up to what he told Logano after Martinsville.

He placed in the top-five in his last two starts at ISM Raceway.

MATTHEW T. THACKER | NKP

4. Kevin Harvick +3

With seven wins during the regular season, Kevin Harvick had a healthy cushion entering this round. That doesn’t matter now as it was all erased virtue of a penalty after the infraction at Texas Motor Speedway. Details about the penalty can be found here.

He could make it two in a row as he is the king of ISM Raceway with 10 consecutive top-six’s, including six wins in that span.

JOHN HARRELSON | NKP

5. Kurt Busch -3

Kurt Busch ran up front for the second straight week in a row, scoring a seventh-place finish. However, solid top-10’s appear to not be enough if he wants to advance this round.

He finished 10th at ISM Raceway in the spring after a pair of finishes outside the top-20.

NIGEL KINRADE | NKP

6. Chase Elliott -17

While everything appeared to be on Chase Elliott‘s side exiting the Round of 12 with two wins in the past three races, it seems that’s slipping away slowly. The past two weeks have seen Hendrick Motorsports struggle in qualifying and practice, with Elliott managing to rebound for finishes of seventh and sixth. While it’s a nice statistic, top-10’s won’t get you anywhere right now.

He has a pair of podiums in his last two ISM appearances.

JOHN HARRELSON | NKP

7. Aric Almirola -35

Aric Almirola contended for the win at Texas, until contact with Joey Logano saw him fade back to eighth. Hopefully the Stewart-Haas Racing remains focused on the task at hand when he gets to ISM Raceway, rather than what happened as frankly, who wants to see a driver whine about being raced too hard?

He has a single top-10 in his last two races at ISM Raceway.

NIGEL KINRADE | NKP

8. Clint Bowyer -51

Clint Bowyer is not having the Round of 8 that he needed, finishing 21st at Martinsville, followed by a 26th at Texas after an early flat tire due to contact.

He finished sixth at ISM in the spring following eight consecutive results outside of the top-10.

All Photos Courtesy of Nigel Kinrade Photography

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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Ashley McCubbin

Currently the Executive Editor for Popular Speed, Ashley McCubbin also runs Short Track Musings, while handling media relations for OSCAAR. Currently living in Bradford, Ontario, she spends her weekend at the local short tracks in the area taking photos.