3 former champions seeing playoff streaks on the line heading to Nashville

Three former NASCAR Cup Series champions, Martin Truex Jr. (2017), Kevin Harvick (2014) and Brad Keselowski (2012), have yet to secure their spots in this season’s Playoffs, putting their lengthy postseason streaks in jeopardy as the series heads to Nashville Superspeedway for the Ally 400 (Sunday, June 26 at 5 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), the 17th race of the 26-race regular season.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr., the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series champion, is currently in the best position in the standings of the three former champions, sitting in 14th in the Playoff outlook following Sonoma – 65 points up on the postseason cutoff. Truex is currently riding a streak of seven consecutive seasons of making the Playoffs and in total has earned a spot in the postseason in the NASCAR Cup Series nine times in his career (2021 ’20, ’19, ’18, ’17, ’16, ’15, ’12, ’07).

Truex is also on a winless streak that has reached 24 races (Richmond, 2021), and will look to win his way into the Playoffs this weekend at Nashville. In last season’s Nashville Superspeedway race, Truex struggled but is hoping for this time around in the Next Gen car to be different. Last season, Truex started 35th and finished 22nd.

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick has had an impressive career, but the veteran hasn’t visited Victory Lane in the series since Bristol in 2020 (59 races ago), and now finds himself 17th in the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Playoff outlook, seven points back from his teammate Aric Almirola in the 16th and final Playoff transfer position on points. Harvick is also riding a streak of 12 consecutive seasons (most among active drivers) where he has earned a spot in the Playoffs and is currently tied with Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and Kurt Busch for the career-most postseason appearances at 15 each (Harvick’s career Playoff seasons: 2021, ’20, ’19, ’18, ’17, ’16, ’15, ’14, ’13, ’12, ’11, ’10, ’08, ’07, ’06).

Harvick ran well at Nashville last season and might be worth keeping an eye on this weekend. In last season’s inaugural Cup race at Nashville, Harvick started 12th and raced his way up to a fifth-place finish.

Following a penalty at the beginning of the season, RFK Racing’s Brad Keselowski has been buried in the point standings and now faces the reality that his streak of eight consecutive seasons of earning a spot in the Playoffs is in jeopardy. In total, Keselowski has earned 10 career appearances in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs (2021 ’20, ’19, ’18, ’17, ’16, ’15, ’14, ’12, ’11).

Keselowski is currently 30th in the driver standings (the last postseason eligible position), 196 points back from Aric Almirola in the final Playoff transfer position. Keselowski is mathematically eligible to point his way into the Playoffs still, but it will be nearly impossible. The easiest way into the postseason for Keselowski would be to win, but he too is on a winless streak that has reached 42 races (Talladega, 2021).   

In last season’s Nashville Cup race, Keselowski started 15th and finished 23rd.

Jimmie Johnson currently holds the record in the NASCAR Cup Series for the longest streak of consecutive Playoff appearances at 15 straight seasons from 2004-2018.

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