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