Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Where the 12 Monster Energy Cup Playoff Drivers Stand After Charlotte
Martin Truex Jr.’s victory in Sunday’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway locked him into the Round of 8 for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.
Truex won his series-high sixth race of the 2017 Cup season, holding off Chase Elliott’s Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for the victory at Charlotte. Kevin Harvick finished third in a Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, followed by Denny Hamlin and Jamie McMurray.
The Cup Series will race at Talladega Superspeedway next week and Kansas Speedway the week after. At the conclusion of the Kansas race, the field of title contenders will be cut from 12 to eight drivers.
Here’s where all 12 drivers stand after the first race of the second round of the playoffs.
- Martin Truex Jr., 3106 points
With the victory, Truex is now a virtual lock to make it into the championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Playoff points carry over from round to round in this format, and Truex has 64 playoff points. His next two closest competitors are Kyle Busch (41 playoff points) and Kyle Larson (34). No one else has more than 20.
- Kyle Larson, 3072
If nothing else, Larson proved it’s much easier to lose a race than to win one. Two mistakes on pit road — one by the driver, the other by his Chip Ganassi Racing team — probably cost Larson a victory at Charlotte. He’s still in good shape points-wise, though.
- Kevin Harvick, 3069
Winning both stages and finishing third in the race was the kind of performance Harvick and Stewart-Haas Racing needed on this day. Harvick won the championship in 2014 and could be in the mix again this year. He has the team and he has the talent.
- Chase Elliott, 3059
At the end of the race, Elliott had nothing for winner Martin Truex Jr. But Elliott got a lot of points with his third runner-up finish in four playoff races and strong finishes in the first two stages made for a great points day.
- Denny Hamlin, 3056
The Charlotte pole sitter, Hamlin earned a hard-fought fourth-place finish here and is in a good points position. Unfortunately, Talladega and Kansas are a couple of his worst tracks in terms of results.
- Kyle Busch, 3055
Spoiler alert: The Charlotte jinx lives for Kyle Busch. It’s the only track where he’s never won a Cup race. This time, a couple of wallbangers resulted in a 29th-place finish and Busch being treated for carbon monoxide inhalation after the race.
- Jimmie Johnson, 3051
Seventh at Charlotte? Meh. Yes, a pit error hurt the forward progress of Johnson and the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. But at this track, Johnson has eight victories and 1,930 laps led. On Sunday, Johnson never led and finished seventh. Sorry fans, but he and his team have shown no real signs of being contenders in these playoffs.
- Jamie McMurray, 3044
A fifth-place finish at Charlotte was McMurray’s best of the four playoff races so far. Still, he’s hardly in a secure position, especially not with Talladega coming up. Then again, McMurray is a fine restrictor-plate racer.
- Matt Kenseth, 3043
In his final year with Joe Gibbs Racing and with fast Toyotas to drive, it wouldn’t take much improvement for Kenseth to crack the final eight in the next two races.
- Brad Keselowski, 3042
Certainly, Keselowski could easily make up a 2-point deficit and he’s really, really good at Talladega. That said, ever since Joey Logano’s win and subsequent inspection failure after the first Richmond race in the spring, Team Penske hasn’t won a Cup race. Puzzling.
- Ryan Blaney, 3039
The good news for Blaney is that he finished eighth at Charlotte. The bad news is six of the seven drivers who finished ahead of him are in the playoffs, and all six earned more stage points than he did.
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 3034
Realistically, for Stenhouse to advance in the playoffs, next week at Talladega, he will have to win his third consecutive restrictor-plate race. That’s an awfully tall order.
All article photos courtesy of Nigel Kinrade Photography © 2017