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NASCAR Cup: last chance to make playoffs

during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 6, 2019 in Bristol, Tennessee.

By AMANDA VINCENT

Sunday’s Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard is the the 26th race of the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, making it the regular-season finale. Fourteen drivers already have cemented their berths in the 16-driver playoffs, meaning two positions remain up for grabs Sunday.

Kyle Busch, with his 64-point lead on second-place driver Joey Logano, also has locked up the distinction of 2019 regular-season champion and the 15-point bonus that goes with it. Other drivers already locked into the playoffs include Logano, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, Erik Jones, William Byron and Aric Almirola.

Clint Bowyer, Daniel Suarez, Ryan Newman and Jimmie Johnson are the only four remaining drivers in positions to possibly make the playoffs on points this year. All other drivers must win at Indianapolis on Sunday to make the postseason.

“I live for pressure; that’s why I’m here,” Suarez said. “I feel like if you’re a race car driver, and you don’t like pressure, you’re in the wrong business. As a driver, you always have pressure, whether it’s from sponsors to perform, the playoffs or something else.”

Bowyer is in the 15th position in the points standings, but that doesn’t put him comfortably in the top-16. He’s only eight points ahead of both Suarez and Newman. Suarez also is in, but by even less than Bowyer, heading into the Brickyard 400. As a matter-of-fact, he’s tied with Newman, the first driver provisionally out of playoff territory. Suarez is provisionally in by tie-breaker, so if Newman scores just one more point than him Sunday, Newman will replace Suarez in the 16 driver playoffs, unless Johnson leapfrogs both of them. Of course, both Suarez and Newman could both outscore Bowyer by more than eight points and both get in.

“There are a lot of teams that would like to be in our situation,” Indiana native Newman said. “There are a lot of teams better than our situation, but there are a lot that would love to be fighting for a playoff berth. We will do what we can to be the best we can with the Acorns Ford and enjoy the race. It is home for me.”

Johnson has the toughest task to make the playoffs. To avoid missing the playoffs for the first time in his storied Cup Series career, he must outscore Suarez and Newman by more than 18 points. Johnson also could, potentially, make the playoffs by outscoring Suarez or Newman by more than 18 and Bowyer by more than 26.

Bowyer, Suarez and Newman are winless at Indianapolis. Johnson, meanwhile, is the winningest active driver at the Brickyard with four wins. Paul Menard is the only other active driver not already in the playoffs who has a Brickyard 400 win.

“There is some pressure to go out and win this weekend, but that is what we do every weekend,” Johnson said. “We go to a track with the intention to contend for wins. If I look back over the first half of the season, I see a lot of races where we gave away a few points. It’s kind of unfair to put all the pressure on one race in Indy, but that is where we are right now. It’s a great track to win at. We know what we have to do this weekend.”

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Posted by on September 7, 2019. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,Monster Energy NASCAR Cup,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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