No formulas are required, no charts need to be explained. It’s all quite simple. For 17 eligible Monster Energy Cup drivers, including Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer and Dale Earnhardt Jr., they must win Saturday night’s race at Richmond Raceway to make the playoffs.
“It’s pretty simple,’’ Logano said. “You could almost write an article without talking to me.”
Logano won at Richmond in April but the victory does not count toward playoff eligibility because his car failed inspection after the race. While he and his team say that the issue did not directly lead to their struggles since — they cite aero issues and the loss of speed — Logano has not been as competitive.
He had eight top-10 finishes in the nine races leading up to and including the spring Richmond race. Logano has had three top-10 finishes in the 16 races since.
Sunday night’s 18th-place finish in the Southern 500 was a repeat of the team’s woes.
“We just didn’t have the speed,’’ Logano said.
Bowyer also must win at Richmond to make the playoffs in his first season at Stewart-Haas Racing. He has two wins at the Virginia track in 23 career starts, but those victories came in 2008 and ’12. He comes into Saturday’s race after a last-place finish in the Southern 500 because of a blown engine.
Earnhardt, in his final full-time season in Cup, will seek to make the playoffs without crew chief Greg Ives this weekend. NASCAR announced after Sunday’s race that two lug nuts were found not secured on Earnhardt’s car. The penalty, which is expected to be announced Wednesday, is a $20,000 fine and one-race suspension for the crew chief.
Others who are eligible for a playoff spot and must win to make the postseason include Danica Patrick, Trevor Bayne, AJ Allmendinger, Paul Menard, David Ragan, Chris Buescher and rookies Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez and Ty Dillon.
Should an eligible driver without a victory win Saturday night’s race, they would take the place of either Chase Elliott, Matt Kenseth or Jamie McMurray. Those are the only drivers without a victory in a playoff spot at this point. Elliott has 737 points, Kenseth 735 and McMurray 734.
“I just hope we can have a clean race and not have any issues (at Richmond),’’ Elliott said.