NASCAR Cup Series Begins Critical Countdown of 10 Races in Nashville

NASCAR Cup Series Begins Critical Countdown of 10 Races in Nashville

Photo: Icon Sportswire - Getty Images

Photo: Icon Sportswire – Getty Images

  • There are 10 more opportunities for NASCAR Cup Series riders to win their way to the Playoffs or get there with points.

  • On Sunday afternoon the Ally 400 at the Nashville Superspeedway (5pm, ET) is the first of these 10.

  • A dozen drivers have won during the first 16 regular season games that help shape the Playoffs.

Is it too early for owners and drivers to start worrying about missing out on the upcoming PlayCups of NASCAR Cup?

Most will say yes, it’s too early as there are 10 more chances to win their way to the Playoffs or get there in the points.

Sunday night the Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway (5pm, ET) is the first of these 10. The 1.33-mile concrete track hosted the first Cup Series race last year, marking the return of the Cup to Music City after a break of 37 years. (NASCAR ran 42 races between 1958-1984 on the half-mile, high-bank Fairgrounds Raceway). Stand-up champion Kyle Larson drove 264 of the 300 laps last year for a 4,335-second victory over the relatively unknown Ross Chastain.

This weekend’s activities begin with an hour-long workout at 6:30 p.m. on Friday night, followed by qualifying at 1:00 p.m. Saturday’s. The Camping World Truck Series has the Rackley Roofing 200 150 laps and 200 miles on Saturday night at 8:00 and the Xfinity Series has 188 laps and 250 miles Tennessee Lottery 250 on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

As for the playoffs…

A dozen drivers have won during the first 16 regular season games that help shape the Playoffs. Among the former champions of the series and the eternal contenders who still have not won this year: Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski. In addition, regular top-15 runners-up and occasional candidates Ryan Blaney, Aric Almirola, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Bubba Wallace also want to reach the field of 16 drivers.

Photo: James Gilbert - Getty Images

Photo: James Gilbert – Getty Images

Blaney is safely in the Playoff bubble, and is first among the non-winners, 95 comfortable points above the cutting line. Truex Jr. has 65 points in the good and Bell co-28. But Almirola is in dangerous form, just seven points above the 16-goal mark.

Ironically, his weak advantage over Harvick, his Stewart Haas Racing teammate. Both entered the playoffs last season and finished in the top five in Nashville’s opening match. Back in the points – and also in some danger – are Richard Childress Racing teammates Tyler Reddick (minus 42 points) and Austin Dillon (minus 47 points).

Of this year’s unbeaten drivers fighting for their lives in the Playoffs, three have won in Nashville at either Xfinity or Camping World. Harvick won the Xfinity races in 2006 and 2010, Dillon won a Truck Series race in 2011 and Keselowski won the Xfinity races in 2008 and 2010.

Finally… using the awesome and often ridiculed line “if the Playoffs started today”, the field of 16 drivers will look like this: two-time winners William Byron, Ross Chastain, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano, plus one-time winners Alex Bowman, Chase Briscoe, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Austin Cindric, Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson and Daniel Suarez.

Photo: Icon Sportswire - Getty Images

Photo: Icon Sportswire – Getty Images

Based on today’s scores, the 2022 win-win drivers Aric Almirola, Christopher Bell, Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. they would also arrive at the stadium.

The 26th and last race of the regular season is on August 27 at Daytona Beach. The first round of the four playoff rounds of the Playoffs is on September 4 in Darlington, September 11 in Kansas City and September 17 in Bristol. Once the pitch has been reduced from 16 to 12, Round 2 continues on September 25 in Fort Worth, October 2 in Talladega and October 9 in Charlotte.

Now reduced to eight survivors, the Round 3 series is in Las Vegas on October 16, at Homestead on October 23 and then in Martinsville on October 30. Final season November 6 in Phoenix.

And in a trend that defies odds, every 2014 Series Champion — Larson, Elliott, Kyle Busch (twice), Logano, Truex Jr., Jimmie Johnson, and Harvick — has won the Cup by winning the last race, six times in Homestead, the two previous ones in Phoenix.

Not exactly the “Super Bowl of Racing”, but it is as close as we can get.

NASCAR playoff standings

The Top 16 enters the playoffs. Wins take precedence over points. If 16 different drivers do not win regular season races, the remaining places will be awarded in order of points.

  1. Ross Chastain 520 (2)

  2. Joey Logano 506 (2)

  3. William Byron 466 (2)

  4. Denny Hamlin 325 (2)

  5. Chase Elliott 536 (1)

  6. Kyle Busch 513 (1)

  7. Kyle Larson 476 (1)

  8. Alex Bowman 460 (1)

  9. Chase Briscoe 386 (1)

  10. Daniel Suarez 366 (1)

  11. Austin Cindric 362 (1)

  12. Kurt Busch 355 (1)

  13. Ryan Blaney 511 (0)

  14. Martin Truex Jr. 481 (0)

  15. Christopher Bell 444 (0)

  16. Aric Almirola 423 (ο)

  17. Kevin Harvick 416 (ο)

  18. Tyler Reddick 381 (0)

  19. Austin Dillon 376 (0)

  20. Erik Jones 368 (0)

  21. Michael McDowell 330 (0)

  22. Chris Buescher 318 (0)

  23. Justin Haley 310 (0)

  24. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 288 (0)

  25. Bubba Wallace 284 (0)

  26. Ty Dillon 270 (0)

  27. Cole Custer 262 (0)

  28. Harrison Burton 241 (0)

  29. Todd Gilliland 239 (0)

  30. Brad Keselowski 227 (0)

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