With 15 races left in the regular season in the NASCAR Cup Series and already 10 different winners banking their spots in the Playoffs with wins, position availability and time are conspiring against the competitors still looking for their ticket to the postseason. Plus, consider the driver standings’ points leader is guaranteed a spot in the Playoffs, that leaves just five positions left on the postseason grid up for grabs as the series heads to Darlington Raceway for Throwback Weekend and the Goodyear 400 on Sunday, May 9 (3:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin currently holds the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings lead with a comfortable 87 points up on second place Martin Truex Jr. Hamlin has three wins at Darlington including one last season, and most likely intends to add his name to this season’s wins list this weekend.
But if you look by the Playoff outlook cutline, from Austin Dillon in position 14th to Daniel Suárez in 22nd, just 95 points separate the nine positions with 15 races to go.
The points tighten up considerably between Wood Brothers Racing’s Matt DiBenedetto in 16th position – the final Playoff transfer spot – and Chip Ganassi Racing’s driver and 2004 series champion Kurt Busch in the 17th position – the first spot outside the postseason cutoff – with just 12 points separating them. DiBenedetto has been riding a hot streak, posting three consecutive top-10 finishes in his last three starts of the season heading into this weekend at Darlington, but the Grass Valley, California native will have his work cut out for him this weekend as Busch has a slightly better average finish (15.6) than DiBenedetto (21.0).
NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Outlook – Drivers Without Wins Following Race No. 11
|Rank||Driver||Points||Race Wins||Stage Wins||Playoff Pts||Pts From Cutoff|
|19||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||232||0||0||0||-18|
|23||* Ryan Preece||197||0||0||0||-53|
|26||Chase Briscoe #||172||0||0||0||-78|
|29||Anthony Alfredo #||114||0||0||0||-136|
Six of the top 10 in average finishing position among active drivers at Darlington are looking for a win this season – Erik Jones (5.2), Denny Hamlin (7.5), Austin Dillon (12.0), Ryan Newman (12.8), Kevin Harvick (12.9) and Tyler Reddick (14.3).