Last Chance to Crash the Playoff Party

When the checkered flag falls to conclude Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway, the final 16-driver field for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs will be set.

Already, 13 drivers are locked in on the basis of having won races earlier this season, with the final three playoff slots right now being held down by drivers who have not won this season but have the most points among those who are winless.

Two of those three winless drivers — Chase Elliott, Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray — are guaranteed to make the playoffs. The only way one of them can be knocked out of the playoffs is if there is a new first-time 2017 winner Saturday night at Richmond.

Among the 2017 winless drivers hoping to pull off a surprise win at Richmond are Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Erik Jones, each of whom can make the playoffs only by winning Saturday night.

The 10-race, season-ending Cup playoffs begin Sept. 17 at Chicagoland Speedway with the running of the Tales of the Turtles 400. All 16 playoff drivers will start that race with 2,000 points plus any playoff points they’ve accumulated during the regular season.

Here’s where the 16 drivers currently playoff eligible rank and how many playoff points they have:

Martin Truex Jr., 4 race wins, 37 playoff points

Kyle Busch, 2 wins, 20 playoff points

Kyle Larson, 3 wins, 18 playoff points

Jimmie Johnson, 3 wins, 16 playoff points

Brad Keselowski, 2 wins, 14 playoff points

Denny Hamlin, 2 wins, 12 playoff points

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 2 wins, 10 playoff points

Kevin Harvick, 1 win, 8 playoff points

Ryan Blaney, 1 win, 8 playoff points

Kurt Busch, 1 win, 5 playoff points

Ryan Newman, 1 win, 5 playoff points

Kasey Kahne, 1 win, 5 playoff points

Austin Dillon, 1 win, 5 playoff points

Matt Kenseth, 0 wins, 3 playoff points

Chase Elliott, 0 wins, 2 playoff points

Jamie McMurray, 0 wins, 0 playoff points.

All article photos courtesy of Nigel Kinrade Photography © 2017 

By 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.