PSLogo Fastwax PFC

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup

Long Shots: Odds of Racing into Playoffs Not Good

By  | 
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

Tonight at Richmond Raceway, the final 16-driver field will be set for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.

Already, 13 drivers are locked in because they’ve won races and passed post-race inspection. Three others – Chase Elliott, Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray — are tentatively in because they have the most points of the drivers who are winless in 2017.

If a driver who is behind those three in points right now wins his or her first race of 2017 in tonight’s Federated Auto Parts 400, he or she will knock out one of those drivers.

But what’s different about this year, is there are no drivers close enough to race their way in on points.

McMurray is 91 points ahead of Clint Bowyer, so it’s mathematically impossible for Bowyer to accumulate enough points in a single race to catch McMurray, the man currently on the playoff bubble.

The only way Bowyer or anyone behind him in points makes it into the playoffs is with a victory tonight. There is no other option.

And the odds do not favor that happening.

In the prior 13 Cup seasons, the only driver to win at Richmond and qualify for the playoffs was Jeremy Mayfield in 2004.

Three other drivers raced their way into the playoffs by making up points deficits at Richmond: Ryan Newman in 2005 and 2013; Kasey Kahne in 2006; and Brian Vickers in 2009. As noted, though, that can’t happen tonight because no drivers are close enough to get in on points.  

So chances strongly favor no changes in the 16 playoff-eligible drivers after tonight’s race. Of course, anything could happen, which is why they run the races in the first place.

Tom Jensen

Tom Jensen is a veteran motorsports journalist. He spent 13 years with FOXSports.com, 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.