Are you ready for the NASCAR playoffs? Saturday night’s race at Daytona (7:30 p.m. ET, NBC) is the final race of the 26-race regular season. The 10-race postseason begins next week at Darlington.
Here’s how the playoff field looks heading into Daytona. Thirteen drivers have already clinched spots in the playoffs, leaving three up for grabs on Saturday night.
Who’s in with a win (or more)
Kevin Harvick (7 wins)
Denny Hamlin (6)
Brad Keselowski (3)
Joey Logano (2)
Chase Elliott (2)
Martin Truex Jr. (1)
Ryan Blaney (1)
Alex Bowman (1)
Austin Dillon (1)
Cole Custer (1)
Harvick clinched the regular-season points championship and the 15 extra bonus points that go with it in the playoffs at Dover. As of now, Harvick has 59 playoff points waiting for him when the postseason begins. The maximum number of points a driver can earn in a single race with two stage wins and a race win is 60.
Who’s in on points
None of these three drivers have won a race in 2020. Yes, defending champion Kyle Busch is currently winless through the first 25 races of the season. He’s been plenty good enough to make the playoffs, however as he has 11 top-five finishes in those 25 races. Just Harvick and Hamlin have more top fives than Busch does.
Who can get in via points
With 13 drivers already locked into the playoffs, there are three spots available on Saturday night. Those four drivers will likely come from the group of drivers below.
Clint Bowyer (685 points)
Bowyer is in the best spot of any driver not currently in the playoffs. He just needs to earn three points on Saturday night to clinch no matter what else happens. He should be in the 16-driver field.
Matt DiBenedetto (637)
DiBenedetto has been in 13th in the standings for the past seven races and his points cushion hasn’t become very comfortable in that span. DiBenedetto clinches a playoff berth no matter what with 47 points. He’s also in the playoffs if he stays ahead of two or more of the drivers below him and no one mentioned in this section or the sections above wins the race. Some stage points on Saturday night will help significantly.
William Byron (632)
Byron is currently the last driver in the playoff field. He has just one top-five finish and eight top-10 finishes in 2020. And that top five came Sunday at Dover when he finished fourth.
Jimmie Johnson (628)
Johnson is safely in the playoffs if his car isn’t disqualified at Charlotte in May for failing inspection and he didn’t miss the Brickyard 400 after testing positive for coronavirus. But consider that Johnson is just four points behind his teammate given that he got a goose egg in two races this season. Johnson should have the edge over Byron for the final spot despite the slight deficit.
Erik Jones (582)
Jones’ final season at Joe Gibbs Racing isn’t going too well. He has five top-five finishes — more than each of the six drivers directly ahead of him in the points standings — but has finished outside the top 20 in 11 different races. He did win this race in 2018 and will probably need to do that again to make the playoffs.
Who needs a win to get in
If your favorite driver wasn’t named in this post then he needs to win to get into the playoffs. Drivers like Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell, Chris Buescher, Bubba Wallace and Ryan Newman need to get to victory lane to claim a playoff bid. The best bet among this group is probably Ricky Stenhouse Jr. He was fast at Daytona in February and won this race in 2017.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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