INDIANAPOLIS — There were three separate playoff battles during Sunday’s inaugural Verizon 200 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. You had the top two of Denny Hamlin vs. Kyle Larson for the regular season championship. They entered this weekend tied atop the standings with Larson charging hard from being over 144 points arrears at one point back in May. Now, with three races left, it was the two of them against each other for the award of 15 additional playoff points.
Hamlin, needed that since he only entered this weekend with five total on the season. Plus, 15 playoff points are the equivalent to three race wins which is also something Hamlin doesn’t have yet.
Another battle is between Tyler Reddick and Austin Dillon. The RCR teammates are battling each other for the 16th and final playoff spot. Just 15 points separated the duo coming into Sunday.
The final battle is for everyone else going for wins.
On Sunday, we got out 14th different winner in 24 races this season but this one isn’t playoff eligible. AJ Allmendinger isn’t going for points in Cup this year, so despite his win in Indianapolis, it doesn’t count towards the postseason.
That in turn clinches a playoff berth for Hamlin as he now sits +293 on the playoff grid. For him vs. Larson, he was -2 heading into the final stage since both elected to give up stage points and pit before the end of each stage. Larson, had such a good car, he still scored two stages points in the second one despite that.
But, as we were coming to the final restart, Hamlin was leading and Larson in fifth. The advantage would go back to him. Then, Chase Briscoe got into him and the rest is history. He’s now 22 points behind Larson heading to Michigan.
Reddick, swept both stages and scored 20 stage points by virtue of that. Dillon, was third and second respectively to get 17 stage points. That put him -18 still heading to the final stage. But, both were collected in the last crash which forced Dillon to the infield care center (he was okay) and Reddick to the back. Reddick, made up seven spots on the final restart with a damaged race car to finish 21st. Dillon was 31st. That’s 10 more points meaning Dillon’s deficit grows to 28.
Matt DiBenedetto finished fifth but is still -145. Chris Buescher scored his first top 15 in the last nine races but with no stage points too, he’s -146. Ross Chastain -176 rounds out the top 20 with really everyone DiBenedetto on back having to win the next two weeks to get in.
Kevin Harvick is +95 and 67 points ahead of Reddick. As long as we don’t get a new playoff eligible winner next Sunday and Harvick keeps that gap, he too would clinch a spot into the postseason field.