The NASCAR Cup Series Playoff field did some shuffling following Darlington Raceway, some for the positive and some for the negative.
The three biggest movers in the right direction in Playoff point positions following Darlington were the Busch brothers and Alex Bowman. Kyle and Kurt Busch both moved up four spots in the Playoff standings from the previous week to 10th and 11th, respectively, and Bowman jumped three spots from eighth to fifth.
But the Playoff driver who took the biggest hit in the points at Darlington was Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney, who’s No. 12 Ford failed pre-race inspection for an unapproved ballast that incurred a points penalty. Then he finished the 24th (last amongst the Playoff contenders) in the race and as a result fell nine spots in the Playoff point standings from seventh to 16th.
Moving to Next Round:
Kevin Harvick leads the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings with 2,106 points. Harvick clinched his spot in the Round of 12 with his victory last weekend at Darlington. Harvick turns his attention to Richmond this week, a track he has made 39 starts posting three wins, 15 top fives and 25 top 10s (series-most).
Above the Round of 12 Cutoff:
Denny Hamlin sits second in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings with 2,087 points. Following Darlington, Hamlin is a comfortable 54 points on the Round of 12 cutoff. Hamlin heads to his home track, Richmond Raceway, this weekend looking to get his first Playoff win of 2020. Hamlin has made 28 starts at Richmond putting up three wins, 13 top fives and 17 top 10s.
Joey Logano leap frogged his Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski in the standings at Darlington and now sits third in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,060 points. Logano is 27 points ahead of the Round of 12 cutoff. Looking to Richmond, Logano has made 23 starts collecting two wins, nine top fives and 12 top 10s.
Brad Keselowski dropped one spot from last week in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings to fourth with 2,055 points. Keselowski is 22 points above the Round of 12 cutoff. Heading to Richmond, Keselowski has made 22 starts at the 0.75-mile track posting one win, five top fives and 11 top 10s.
Alex Bowman flew into the top five of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings (up three spots, now fifth) with 2,052 points. The driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet is just 19 points up on the Round of 12 cutoff. Bowman will have his work cut out for him this weekend at Richmond, a track he has made nine starts posting a best finish of 12th in the Playoff race of 2018.
Martin Truex Jr. collided with Chase Elliott while battling for the lead late in the Playoff opener at Darlington Raceway, as a result he finished 22nd in the race but maintained his sixth position in the Playoff standings with 2,049 points. Truex is a mere 16 points ahead of the Round of 12 cutoff. But if Truex was looking for a track to rebound, Richmond Raceway just might be it. The New Jersey native swept both Richmond races last season and is the defending winner of the Playoff event this weekend. In total, Truex has made 29 starts posting two wins, five top fives and 11 top 10s.
Chase Elliott dropped two spots in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings after tangling with Martin Truex Jr. as the two raced for the lead at Darlington. Elliott ultimately finished 20th in the postseason opener and is now seventh in the Playoff standings with 2,045 points. Turning to Richmond, Elliott has made 10 starts amassing two top fives and three top 10s.
Austin Dillon put on an impressive performance at Darlington Raceway finishing runner-up to Kevin Harvick in the Playoff’s opener. The strong run jumped Dillon up two spots in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings from 10th to eighth with 2,043 points. With two races left in the Round of 16, Dillon is 10 points up on the Round of 12 cutoff. The North Carolina native heads to Richmond this weekend having made 13 series starts posting two top 10s.
William Byron pulled out a top five finish last weekend at Darlington and because of it maintained his ninth position in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,042 points. Byron is nine points ahead of the Round of 12 cutoff heading to Richmond this weekend. Byron has made five series starts at Richmond posting a best finish of 12th in the 2018 spring race.
Kyle Busch, the defending NASCAR Cup Series champion, is ranked 10th in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings after moving up four spots following a top-10 finish at Darlington. Now the two-time series champ is seven points to the good on the Round of 12 cutline and roles into Richmond Raceway the series-leader in wins at the 0.75-mile track (six victories). Busch has yet to win this season, the longest into a season he has gone without tasting the spoils of Victory Lane. In total, Busch has made 30 series starts at Richmond putting up six wins, 18 top fives and 22 top 10s.
Kurt Busch also grabbed a top-10 finish at Darlington andas a result jumped four spots in the NASCAR Playoff standings to 11th with 2,037 points. Busch needs to continue to gather points as he is only four points up on the Round of 12 cutoff. Richmond is one of Busch’s better tracks, in 39 starts he has posted two wins, seven top fives and 15 top 10s.
Aric Almirola is on the Round of 16 hotseat, currently in the 12th and final position to transfer to the Round of 12. Almirola is also tied in points with Clint Bowyer in 13th (the first spot outside the cutoff) with 2,033 points – he also holds the tie breaker of best finishes in the current Playoff round with a ninth-place finish to Bowyer’s 10th at Darlington. The driver from Tampa, Florida has made 17 starts at Richmond Raceway posting two top fives and five top 10s.
Below the Round of 12 Cutoff
Clint Bowyer is literally tied with Aric Almirola in points, but the tie breaker of best finishes goes to Almirola. So, Bowyer sits outside the Round of 12 cutoff in 13th in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings with 2,033 points. Bowyer looks to Richmond to rebound having made 29 starts at the 0.75-mile track posting two wins, five top fives and 16 top10s.
Cole Custer finished 12th last weekend at Darlington and now finds himself 14th in the NASCAR Cup Series standings with2,030 points. Custer the lone Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate to make the Playoffs this season is three points back from the Round of 12 cutoff. Custer has made two series starts at Richmond posting a best finish of 26th in this race last season. But the Californian does have a victory in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at the 0.75-mile track (2019).
Matt DiBenedetto finished 21st at Darlington but managed to move up a spot in the points due to having the tiebreaker of better finish in this round with Ryan Blaney, who is 16th. DiBenedetto lands in Richmond with 2,016 points and 17 markers behind the Round of 12 cutoff. DiBenedetto has made 11 starts at posting a best finish of 14th in this race last season.
Ryan Blaney unfortunately failed pre-race inspection and incurred a points penalty as well as finishing 24th at Darlington and now finds himself 16th in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings with 2,016 points. Blaney has made nine series starts at Richmond posting a best finish of 17th in this Playoff race last season.