Four Cup Series playoff contenders are staring down the prospect of elimination after NASCAR’s eventful week at Texas, which culminated in a Kyle Busch victory on Wednesday.
Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr. and Kurt Busch sit below the cutoff line that determines who advances to the Championship 4 race at Phoenix. But an outright victory by one of them Sunday at Martinsville — or a series of lucky breaks — would clinch a title berth.
Here’s what the NASCAR standings look like ahead of the final weekend of the Round of 8:
|Pos.||Driver||Distance from cutoff|
|7||Martin Truex Jr.||-36|
Joey Logano is the only driver to have officially clinched a spot in the championship race. He did so by winning at Kansas.
Read on for an in-depth breakdown of what drivers on the bubble need to have happen at Martinsville.
Who is in the Cup Series championship race at Phoenix?
Joey Logano is automatically in because of his victory at Kansas two weeks ago, and Kevin Harvick is a virtual lock based on his position in the playoff standings.
As it stands, Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski are positioned to join Logano and Harvick in a battle for the Cup Series title; however, a win from a contender currently outside the top four would create a sudden scramble between Hamlin and Keselowski for a single spot.
This is a similar scenario to the conclusion of the Round of 12, when Alex Bowman and Logano knew they were in the Round of 8 as long as someone below the cutoff didn’t win.
Will Alex Bowman make the NASCAR championship race?
Bowman has two potential avenues for making it to Phoenix, and neither one is particularly easy to complete. He’s in automatically if he wins Sunday’s race at Martinsville, but he has never cracked the top five there. He could also potentially make it if he finishes above Chase Elliott, picks up substantial stage points and sees one of Denny Hamlin or Brad Keselowski wreck.
Will Chase Elliott make NASCAR championship race?
Elliott is in the same boat as Bowman, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate. He needs a victory or several breaks to go his way to advance to Phoenix as a championship contender.
Have Martin Truex Jr. and Kurt Busch been eliminated?
Truex suffered self-inflicted damage to his championship hopes when his team was caught using an illegal spoiler during prerace inspection at Texas. That violation cost him 20 playoff points and pushed him well below the cutoff line.
Busch, meanwhile, is only in the Round of 8 because of a win the previous round in Las Vegas. His performances throughout the playoffs have been subpar. He’s way behind all other contenders based on points.
Truex and Busch still have a chance to advance, but they need to win at Martinsville.
What is the Round of 8 playoff tiebreaker?
In the event two drivers are tied for fourth place, the tiebreaker is best finish in the current round. Alex Bowman currently holds an edge over Chase Elliott because of his fifth-place finish at Texas.