We’re 20 races into the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season. It’s amazing that we’ve made it this far. Now, we have two more races up on tap this weekend, both occurring at the Michigan International Speedway.
To most, this could be the last race weekend to solidify your playoff spot. I mean, when you have two races at Dover (Aug. 22-23) and two more at Daytona, one of the road course (Aug. 16) and the other on the superspeeway (Aug. 29), a lot can happen between now and the end of the regular season still.
I would be shocked if Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski were shut out in Dover. That track usually rewards the best and with these five combining to win 15 of the 20 races run this year, I don’t see them getting shutout between now and the end of the regular season anyways.
So, with two wildcards at Daytona then, Michigan appears to be the last spot for someone to control their own destiny with strategy plays being opened up.
Right now, Aric Almirola has to be feeling good about his playoff chances. He’s 145 points above the bubble and has nine straight top 10 finishes. Kurt Busch is +112 and while he’s not running as well right now as he would have liked, he’s still plenty of points to the good. His brother Kyle Busch has just one victory in his last 42 starts, but is +94, so I’m not too concerned about him making the playoffs or not.
But, the guys on back I have reservations about.
Clint Bowyer is +43 but he’s in a fight with Matt DiBenedetto for 14th. DiBenedetto (+40) is only three points behind Bowyer for that spot. Where that’s important is, if we get multiple new race winners, those are are duking it out for the last spot. If we escape the next 3-4 races and no one new has one, I think that they’re good.
William Byron is +15 and is playing the stage points game now in scoring the eighth most points in the race last Sunday in New Hampshire thanks to his fifth place finish in Stage 2 and 11th place result in the race. The Hendrick Motorsports driver has three top 11 finishes in his last four starts on the year.
But, Tyler Reddick is the first driver out (-15) and putting a lot of pressure on Byron. Reddick, has four top 10 finishes in his last five starts on the year and has outplaced Byron in each of the last four races. He looks closer to winning than Byron does.
From there, I think Jimmie Johnson (-25) and Erik Jones (-31) are going to have to win. They’re sliding further and further out and with two races at Daytona looming still this month, they’re in trouble.
Michael McDowell, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Bubba Wallace, Christopher Bell, Ryan Preece, John Hunter Nemechek, Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman could easily win the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at the end of the month. If so, they’ll steal a playoff spot away from someone else.
That’s why to me, the final spot is a fight between Byron and Reddick, DiBenedetto and Bowyer will fight for 14th and 15th to stay off the bubble, Almirola and the Busch brothers are safe and everyone else now just needs to win.