NASCAR playoff picture, title odds: Hamlin clinches; Logano, Earnhardt Jr. need wins
Eleven drivers have already secured their chances at a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs are getting closer with 19 of the 26 regular-season races in the books. When the circuit heads to Chicagoland Speedway in September, 16 drivers will be competing for a championship.
Here is a look at where things stand heading into the upcoming race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Martin Truex Jr.: Simply said, this guy has everyone beat right now in much the same fashion that Jimmie Johnson has dominated over the past decade. Truex Jr.'s resume is impressive to say the least, with three race wins and 14 stage victories this year. He has a huge advantage over everyone else once the playoffs start, currently set with 29 points. Johnson is in second with 16.
Kyle Larson: The No. 42 driver is currently second in the standings in addition to his two wins. Larson continues to impress behind the wheel regardless of what penalty could come his way. He nearly passed Hamlin on the final lap at New Hampshire after starting the race from the rear. Don't be surprised if Larson adds another win before the playoffs begin.
Kevin Harvick: Stewart-Haas Racing's No. 4 finally clinched a playoff spot with a win at Sonoma. Harvick currently sits fourth in the regular season standings behind Kyle Busch, who has yet to win. He will have a chance to add to his three stage wins and eight playoff points at Indy.
Denny Hamlin: Joe Gibbs Racing finally has a driver in the playoffs afterNo longer on the outside looking in, the No. 11 is fifth in the standings and is now a legitimate championship contender.
Brad Keselowski: The No. 2 secured a spot in the playoffs when he went to Victory Lane at Atlanta. Keselowski also took the checkered at Martinsville and has 12 top-10 finishes, including a quiet ninth-place finish at New Hampshire.
Jimmie Johnson: It's no surprise that the seven-time NASCAR champion is a lock already. Johnson has wins at Texas, Bristol and Dover. If the playoffs started today, Johnson would be second only to Truex Jr. with 16 playoff points. The No. 48 is poised to do what he always does: dominate the playoffs.
Ryan Blaney:locked the descendant of Dave and Lou Blaney into the playoffs this year as he currently sits 12th in the standings. Blaney finished 19th at New Hampshire but will look to rebound at Indy.
Kurt Busch: Acan go a long way. The Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 hasn't been back to Victory Lane since. Busch has looked good in the Ford this season, currently 14th place.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: The No. 17 is really beginning to look like a contender after winning at both Talladega and Daytona. He has yet to prove himself on short tracks, which will be critical if Stenhouse has any hopes of winning it all.
Ryan Newman: A win at Phoenix early locked Newman into the NASCAR playoffs, as he sits behind Stenhouse.
Austin Dillon: You may recall Dillon taking theat his hometown track, Charlotte. Like Newman, Dillon hasn't been all that impressive in stage racing, but either way, he will have a chance to compete for a championship.
In (for now)
Kyle Busch: Rowdy can't buy a win these days, but luckily for him this weekend is the one-year anniversary of his last victory. Busch has been dominant at the Brickyard in recent years, winning in both 2015 and 2016. The No. 18 will look to snap his losing streak and make it three-in-a-row at Indy on Sunday.
Chase Elliott: The No. 24 posted another solid 11th-place finish at New Hampshire. At sixth in the points, Elliott remains winless but has six top-5 finishes to show for it.
Jamie McMurray: Here is one of those drivers who hasn't accumulated any playoff points or wins but has been solid all year. McMurray has been Mr. Consistent, with 11 finishes in the top 10.
Clint Bowyer: The No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford needs a win in the worst way to stay in the hunt here especially with the parity of winners. Things are looking grim as the only upcoming track Bowyer has won at is Richmond, and by that time it might be too late.
Matt Kenseth: This guy is literally driving for a new job after it was recently announced that Erik Jones would be replacing Kenseth in the No. 20 car at Joe Gibbs Racing next season. His chances are much higher than others on the bubble, however, with a strong fourth-place showing at New Hampshire. Kenseth has won at five of the seven remaining tracks in the regular season.
Down, but not out (yet)
Joey Logano: That encumbered win is really starting to hurt Logano, who is continuing to run out of options. A miserable 37th-place finish at New Hampshire was not what he needed, but the 2016 championship runner-up is definitely not a quitter despite having never won at the remaining tracks.
Erik Jones: The rookie has been impressive in earning a contract with Joe Gibbs Racing to drive the historic No. 20 car next season, but will most likely need his first-career win to make it into the playoffs this season.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Junior is 21st in the points as he continues his farewell tour but will have multiple shots to win before the playoffs begin. The No. 88 has won before at Pocono, Michigan, Bristol and Richmond, which are all coming up on the calendar. At Indianapolis, Junior has an average finish of 18.81, but you never know ... He could be kissing bricks on Sunday.
2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regular season standings
Martin Truex Jr.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Winless drivers that have won at upcoming tracks
Indianapolis: Kyle Busch, Jamie McMurray, Paul Menard
Pocono: Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kahne, Chris Buescher
Watkins Glen: Kyle Busch, A.J. Allmendinger
Michigan: Kyle Busch, Earnhardt Jr., Kenseth, Kahne
Bristol: Kyle Busch, Kenseth, Earnhardt Jr., Kahne
Darlington: Kyle Busch, Kenseth
Richmond: Kyle Busch, Kenseth, Bowyer, Earnhardt Jr., Kahne
Odds to win the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Here are the betting odds for the Cup series title, via VegasInsider.com
- Martin Truex Jr. 9/2
- Kyle Busch 5/1
- Jimmie Johnson 6/1
- Brad Keselowski 6/1
- Kevin Harvick 7/1
- Kyle Larson 7/1
- Joey Logano 10/1
- Chase Elliott 14/1
- Denny Hamlin 20/1
- Ryan Blaney 20/1
- Matt Kenseth 25/1
- Clint Bowyer 33/1
- Kurt Busch 40/1
- Jamie McMurray 50/1
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 50/1
- Erik Jones 66/1
- Austin Dillon 66/1
- Ryan Newman 66/1
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. 100/1
- Kasey Kahne 100/1
- Daniel Suarez 100/1
- Danica Patrick 500/1
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