We knew coming into the playoffs that Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin were likely going to take two of the four spots in the Championship 4 this November. They had so many playoff points that it was going to be hard to beat them.
Hamlin’s opening round is a prime example of that. He’s not had a top 10 yet this postseason but he’s already clinched a spot to the Round of 12. By comparison, William Byron was fifth in Darlington and has a top five in three of his last four races but three points out.
Don’t count out Hamlin yet either. He was third coming to his final pit stop at Darlington. He was ran into by Jimmie Johnson and missed his pit as a result. He’d finish 13th. Then, last week in Richmond, he won a stage but a pit penalty kept him from a top five. While his finishes say 13th and 12th, he’s had a top five car still.
Harvick has scored a top five finish in 12 of the last 15 races on the season. Two of them that he didn’t was at Daytona and the other at Richmond (7th).
Now, we may have the third spot taken. Brad Keselowski won for the fourth time this season last Saturday night in Richmond and has the third most playoff points accumulated. On 750 horsepower tracks, he has three wins. No one else has more than one. Phoenix is a 750 track and the Round of 8 cutoff race is also at a 750 track (Martinsville).
Is everyone else playing for fourth?
Martin Truex Jr is likely fourth right now, but only narrowly. Truex, should have had a top two finish in the playoff opener for the Southern 500. He and Chase Elliott tangled while battling for the lead with 14 to go. He swept both stages still and gained two very valuable playoff points by virtue of that.
Then, he did score a runner up last Saturday night in Richmond. His second place run was his ninth top-five finish in the last 10 races, eight of which coming in the top three. In fact, he’s had three runner-ups in his last five starts in 2020 and four since July. He’s also had five third place finishes during this span too.
Joey Logano is right there too. He’s had eight top 10s in his last nine starts and nine in the last 11. Chase Elliott also has seven top 10s in his last nine. Four of his last six have been in the top five at that.
This is going to be a tight race for the final two spots, if not one.