The focus on the NASCAR tie-break began with four races left

by Bob Bocras
NASCAR FOX Sports writer

For those who don’t like math, the NASCAR Playoff rehabilitation tends to create a lot of headaches.

But with four races remaining in the regular season—Michigan (two miles elliptical), Richmond (0.75 mile oval), Watkins Glen (road track) and Daytona (2.5 mile oval draft)—things are starting to look a little clearer. And this is not just for those competing in the playoffs.

The NASCAR playoff consists of 16 drivers – the regular season champion and then 15 winners based on the number of wins with the points ties broken. If the number of winners is more than the number of points, then the regular season points are the interval between those who have achieved only one win.

As far as the regular season title goes, Chase Elliott (with four wins) has 125 points over Ryan Blaney and 129 points over Ross Chastain. So Elliott has pretty much closed it off as Blaney, who is averaging 31.6 points per race, probably won’t average 31 points better than Elliott over the last four races.

Ryan Blaney in a no-win season so far

Ryan Blaney in a no-win season so far

Ryan Blaney sits in the precarious position of being high in the NASCAR Cup standings but is still without a win in the season.

Regarding the number of winners, there were 14 (including Elliott). If the playoffs end today, Blaney and Martin Truex Jr will remain on a points basis. The next non-winning driver is Kevin Harvick, who is 96 points behind Truex – another margin that’s hard to beat without a win.

So it’s Blaney and Truex who still stand a chance of winning points. But it is far from guaranteed.

Blaney and Truex either need to win or hope there are no new winners. If there is one new winner in the next four races (not Blaney nor Truex), only one of them will make it to the qualifiers. Blaney currently has a 25 point advantage over Truex, which is quite inconvenient with four races to go and the potential for at least one new winner.

“The easiest but the hardest thing to do is win, and I can stop talking about it,” Blaney said. “But we try all year long.

“Hopefully we can get that done and you don’t have to worry about it. But you just have to be in the back of your head to realize you’re still a points race Martin. … You don’t want to be on the bubble if there are no new winners, and obviously you want to You’re trying to win the race, so it’s a balancing act.”

Truex almost won in New Hampshire, but his decision to have two new tires late in the race instead of four thwarted the dominant performance.

“That’s what it is,” Truex said last month before the race at Pocono. “We’ve been trying to win all year. We were close. We’ve been running better lately, driving more laps lately.

“We don’t change what we do…if we put four tires on [at New Hampshire]We’re not going to talk about this conversation now. But this is a race. And that’s how it goes.”

Martin Truex Jr. on his chances in the playoffs

If Martin Truex Jr. Nervous about making the playoffs, he wouldn’t show it as he was joking when asked about it.

There have only been two new winners in the past six races (and three new winners in the last nine), so even with the Watkins Glen road course and the unexpected drafting race at the end of the regular season at Daytona, there will likely be one or two new winners at most at the races. the next four.

“As of now, we’re in,” Trux said. “So there is no reason to be nervous. We need to do our jobs, try to win. And if we can’t win, collect all the points we can.”

But what if there are three new winners? This would create a scenario for the first time (this format was implemented in 2014) where the winning driver does not qualify for qualifying.

Those with two or more wins — Elliott, Chastain, Joey Logano, William Byron, Tyler Riddick and Denny Hamlin — are restricted to the playoffs.

Kurt Busch, who will miss his third race in a row this weekend due to a concussion, is currently the lowest among the eight drivers with one win and would be in danger if there were more winners than points.

Of those with one win, three can breathe relatively easily: Kyle Larson (182 points ahead of Kurt Bosch), Christopher Bell (+155) and Kyle Busch (+148).

The other five drivers with at least one win still need to watch how it goes, and everyone besides Busch mostly just needs to avoid a disastrous race or two that would put them at risk of falling behind.

Alex Bowman currently has a 56-point lead over Bosch, followed by Daniel Suarez (+50), Austin Sendrick (+45) and Chase Briscoe (+25).

They are all clearly going to put more distance between themselves and Bush with Kurt out of Michigan this weekend. But if for some reason there are four new winners in a row for a total of 18 winners – which is unlikely but still possible – it will be an even more intense battle for points.

“If I were going to win Charlotte or win Bristol, you don’t even talk about it,” Briscoe said, lamenting some late-race moves that didn’t work out.

“There are a lot of times when I am [lost] Lots of pips in the last two or three months. Really, we probably shouldn’t be in this place, but I kind of put ourselves here.”

Chase Briscoe on being in a playoff bubble

Chase Briscoe on being in a playoff bubble

Chase Briscoe blames himself for being in the playoff bubble as the one winning driver with the fewest points this year.

Suarez said his team is not talking about whether they will participate in the qualifiers but about how they will deal with the qualifiers.

“I’ve come together with my team about having the mentality that we’re already in the playoffs, so we can be in that rhythm once we get into the playoffs with momentum and everything,” he said.

For drivers outside the top 10 in points who haven’t scored any wins, not only do they have to worry about getting one win to qualify for the playoffs, but also likely to be in the bubble if there are more winners than the number of points.

Bubba Wallace, who is 20th overall and trailing teammate Kurt Bosch by 27 points, knows that a win might not guarantee him a place.

“Even if we get one win and still get out of the playoffs, we get a win,” Wallace said.

“We know we can do it. We have a team that can do it… [This scenario] It puts the focus back on the start of the season and how we missed some chances.”

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What to watch

NASCAR wasn’t sure before the season whether to use the 670-hp package with a short wing or the 510-hp package with the big spoiler (Superspeedway package) at the two-mile Michigan International Motorcycle.

After what I witnessed at Auto Club Speedway in February, how the next generation car raced there at 670 horsepower and the speeds weren’t so fast that the cars were uncontrollable, NASCAR chose to go with higher horsepower.

That means it probably won’t be pack races like Atlanta. But there will still be potential slingshot crafting and permits, which Michigan has had its fair share of over the past several years.

Drivers in the past two weeks are still a little perplexed about what kind of racing will take place at MIS. The tires may also be a problem, as they are a new structure designed for more stability.

So what should be watched? How the drivers react and adapt throughout the race depending on how they perform.

think out loud

Chris Bucher stayed in his car in Indianapolis during an electrical fire, again this year when a driver stayed in the car when everyone thought he needed to evacuate.

Why does the driver stay in the car? One possible reason is the rule that once the driver is out of the car, the driver is out of the race. Buescher knew the car might still be drivable, so he had to inhale all of the fire extinguisher’s chemicals while also being in an unsafe situation.

NASCAR should look at this rule. The driver must be allowed to exit during the fire and then return if the vehicle is still running. It doesn’t make sense for the driver to have an incentive to stay in the car when it catches fire.

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they said that

“Personally, I think the sport needs more penalties and NASCAR needs to hand it over like candy right now for garage control, because we’ve been playing a lot of games for many years. And games have to be discontinued. Games cost a lot of money.” Brad Kiselowski

Bob Pokras has spent decades covering motorsports, including the last 30 games of the Daytona 500. He joined FOX Sports in 2019 after working for ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @Popocras. Looking for more NASCAR content? Subscribe to the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass!


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