The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs have been exciting this year, and Martinsville Speedway didn’t disappoint with the expected last lap drama. The victory by Joey Logano places the playoffs into an interesting situation, though.
Remember the domination by THE BIG THREE – Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., and Kevin Harvick – through the regular season? The bonus points that they accumulated compared to the rest of field allowed them to enter the playoffs with a considerable advantage, and is showing through right now. Unless one of them make a significant mistake the next two weeks, it’s going to take a victory by one of the four below the cut-off line to spoil their party with Logano.
1. Joey Logano – Locked In
Joey Logano continues to be consistent, as the victory at Martinsville was his seventh straight top-14 in the playoffs. Now moving forward, he has next to worry about the next two weeks.
He has scored a top-seven in his last six Texas starts, and won at ISM Raceway in 2016, but has followed that with three finishes outside of the top-10.
2. Kyle Busch +46
Kyle Busch ran consistently in the top-five after starting pole on Sunday en route to a solid fourth-place finish. With seven wins and the regular season championship, he holds a healthy advantage.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver won the spring race at Texas Motor Speedway, and has placed in the top-five in his last six appearances at ISM Raceway.
3. Martin Truex Jr. +25
Although there were concerns about Martin Truex Jr. entering this round, he is erasing of those with his performance at Martinsville Speedway. After starting tail of the field due to failing post-qualifying inspection, he made his way to the front and was poised for the first short track win of his career until the late-race bump from Logano. He should be one to watch moving forward, as it seemed to ignite a fire with him saying afterwards, “He won the battle; he ain’t winning the war.”
He has scored six straight top-10’s at Texas before crashing out of the event in the spring, while placing in the top-five in his last two starts at ISM Raceway.
4. Kevin Harvick +25
With seven wins during the regular season, Kevin Harvick had a healthy cushion entering this round, and that helped ease the sting of a 10th-place finish on Sunday.
He has posted eight straight top-10’s at Texas including a win last year, and is the king of ISM Raceway with 10 consecutive top-six’s, including six wins in that span.
5. Kurt Busch -25
Kurt Busch did not show his usual pace at Martinsville Speedway, but managed to hang in there for a sixth-place finish. However, solid top-10’s appear to not be enough if he wants to advance this round.
He has scored three straight top-10’s at Texas, and finished 10th at ISM Raceway in the spring after a pair of finishes outside the top-20.
6. Chase Elliott -31
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. He qualified 21st for Sunday’s race at Martinsville, and failed to score points in the first stage en route to finishing seventh. While it was a solid rebound, top-10’s won’t get you anywhere right now.
He has four top-10’s at Texas with a worst finish of 11th in five appearances, to go with a pair of podiums in his last two ISM appearances.
7. Clint Bowyer -42
Clint Bowyer may have won at Martinsville in the spring, but struggled on Sunday as he went around for a spin en route to placing 21st. Cue being in a must-win situation moving forward now.
He has only one top-10 in his last eight Texas races, while finishing sixth at ISM in the spring following eight consecutive results outside of the top-10.
8. Aric Almirola -50
Aric Almirola would fail to contend for the win at Martinsville, scoring an 11th-place finish. He’s in the same situation as his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate now.
He has only one top-10 in 15 starts at Texas, and has a single top-10 in his last two races at ISM Raceway.
All Photos Courtesy of Nigel Kinrade Photography
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