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No shakeup expected ahead of 2018 NASCAR playoffs

Two races remain in the 26-race 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regular season — Sunday’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway and the Sept. 9 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Twelve drivers already have staked claim to playoff berths, and Denny Hamlin is likely to claim one at Darlington. Also, another driver or two may clinch Sunday.

Even though only 12 spots are officially taken with another one or so likely to become official on Sunday evening when the checkered flag waves at Darlington, I’m thinking we, really, already know the 16-driver playoff lineup.

Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, Erik Jones and Austin Dillon already are in by virtue of a race win or two, and Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Larson locked in on points at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway a couple of weeks ago. Let’s just go ahead and add Hamlin to that group, because, after all, he only needs eight points Sunday to lock in. Heck, he may achieve that in the first stage, and if he doesn’t earn a single point in either 100-lap stage, he’ll only need to finish 33rd or better. Anything’s possible, but I’m pretty sure, Hamlin’s going to be a long by Sunday night’s checkered flag at Darlington.

With Hamlin and other aforementioned drivers in, Aric Almirola, Jimmie Johnson and Alex Bowman are in the provisional advancement positions with two races left in the regular season. I see all three of those guys getting into the playoffs. After all, the lowest of those drivers, points-wise, is Bowman, and he’s 79 points ahead of the next driver in line, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

The only really reasonable way to knock out one of the provisional advancers would be winning at Darlington or Indianapolis. Frankly, I don’t really see a new winner in either race, other than possibly one of the drivers already in on points or from the ranks of the three drivers provisionally in, heading into the Southern 500. I especially don’t see a knew winner other than from aforementioned drivers at both Darlington and Indianapolis. Simply put, I especially don’t see anyone other than, possibly, Bowman being knocked out. He’s 32 points behind Johnson, the next driver up the line.

I think even Bowman is safe, though.

I think the 2018 playoff field is already set, just not officially. I’m almost willing to put money on it. Almost.

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Posted by on September 2, 2018. Filed under Blog by Amanda Vincent,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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