NCS Playoff Bubble: Points so tight a tiebreaker is needed along Playoff cutline

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Twelve races into the NASCAR Cup Series regular season and the points around Playoff cutline are mighty close. So close, the NASCAR Cup Series needed a tiebreaker to decide who’s in and who’s out following Darlington. 

When the checkered flag flew at Darlington Raceway last Sunday, Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick and Wood Brothers Racing’s Matt DiBenedetto ended up tied in points (268 points each) along the Playoff cutline in 16th and 17th, respectively. Reddick currently holds the tiebreaker of best finish with a runner-up back at Homestead-Miami Speedway compared to DiBenedetto’s best finish this season of fourth at Kansas Speedway. 

Now the series turns its attention to Dover International Speedway, the halfway point of the regular season, and teams need to start considering a win might be their only option to make the postseason. With 13 races to go and several big names left without a win, time and Playoff spot availability are conspiring against the competitors still looking to seal their position in the Playoffs.

2017 NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. added to his 2021 season wins total last weekend at Darlington Raceway getting his third victory of the year. Heading to Dover this weekend, 10 drivers have locked themselves into the Playoffs on wins, leaving one spot secured for the driver standings points leader (currently Denny Hamlin) and five additional spots up for grabs by virtue of a win or points position.

2021 Driver Playoff Outlook Following Race No. 12 – Drivers Not Locked In
RankDriverPointsWinsStagesPlayoff PtsPts From Cutoff
11Denny Hamlin529055261
12Kevin Harvick385000117
13Chase Elliott382011114
14Austin Dillon31600048
15Chris Buescher28701119
16Tyler Reddick2680000
17Matt DiBenedetto2680110
18Ricky Stenhouse Jr.249000-19
19Ryan Newman246000-22
20Kurt Busch240000-28
21Bubba Wallace223011-45
22Ross Chastain218000-50
23Daniel Suarez214000-54
24* Ryan Preece209000-59
25Chase Briscoe #198000-70
26Cole Custer192000-76
27Erik Jones188000-80
28Aric Almirola168000-100
29Anthony Alfredo #125000-143
30Corey LaJoie116000-152

Interestingly, the top three winners from last season in the NASCAR Cup Series, combining to win 21 of the 36 races (58.3%), Kevin Harvick (nine wins), Denny Hamlin (seven wins) and Chase Elliott (five wins) are all still looking for their first trip to Victory Lane this season. All three have won at Dover International Speedway; including last season when both Denny Hamlin (Race 1) and Kevin Harvick (Race 2) each won. Elliott grabbed his lone victory at the Monster Mile back in 2018.

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