Sixteen drivers. Ten races. One champion.
The focus turns to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for next Sunday’s playoff opener in what is expected to be 100-degree temperature.
Here is a look at the playoff field (in order of seeding):
Kyle Busch (2045 points) — Regular-season champion enters postseason with 45 playoff points. … This is his seventh consecutive year in the playoffs. … Has four wins this year. … Winless in his last 12 races, his longest winless streak since 2017. … Has reached the championship race each of the past four years, winning the 2015 title. … Won at Richmond and Phoenix in last year’s playoffs.
Denny Hamlin (2030) — Seeks first series title. … Sixth consecutive playoffs. … Enters playoffs with four wins this season and 35 in his career. … He’s won the Daytona 500 this year, along with races at Texas, Pocono and Bristol.
Martin Truex Jr. (2029) — Runner-up to the championship last year and 2017 series champ. … Has four wins this season (Richmond, Dover, Coca-Cola 600 and Sonoma). .. Has not finished better than 13th in the last three races.
Kevin Harvick (2028) — Making 10th consecutive playoff appearance. … Has won three of the last seven races after going winless the season’s first 19 races. … Scored victories at New Hampshire, Michigan and Indianapolis. … Won the 2014 title, the first year when the championship was determined by the playoff format that ended with the title race in Miami.
Joey Logano (2028) — Reigning series champion won earlier this season at Las Vegas, site of the opening playoff race this coming weekend. His two victories this season were at Las Vegas and Michigan. … Finished second to Kevin Harvick at Indianapolis.
Brad Keselowski (2024) — Making sixth consecutive playoff appearance. … Has three wins this season but last victory was at Kansas in May. … Has gone 14 races without a win. … Last made the championship race in 2017, finishing fourth. … Finished second to Team Penske teammate Joey Logano at Las Veags, site of this week’s playoff opener.
Chase Elliott (2018) — Making fourth consecutive playoff appearance. … Won at Watkins Glen for the second year in a row. … Enters playoffs with four top-10 finishes in the last five races.
Kurt Busch (2011) — Making sixth consecutive playoff appearance. … Earned spot with win at Kentucky. … Finished fifth at Las Vegas earlier this season.
Alex Bowman (2005) — Making second playoff appearance. … Earned spot with win at Chicagoland Speedway. … Has not finished better than 10th in the last nine races.
Erik Jones (2005) — Making second playoff appearance. … Won Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. … Joe Gibbs Racing announced this week it has signed Jones to a one-year contract extension to remain in the No. 20 car through next season. … Finished 15th in the points last year, eliminated in the first round.
Kyle Larson (2005) — Making fourth consecutive playoff appearance. … Saw his streak of five consecutive top-10 finishes end with a wreck while running toward the front Sunday at Indianapolis. … Best finish in the playoffs is eighth in 2017.
Ryan Blaney (2004) — Won the inaugural Charlotte Roval race in last year’s playoffs. … Making third consecutive playoff appearance. … Has led 365 laps this season, most by a driver without a win this year.
William Byron (2001) — Making his first playoff appearance. Still seeks his first career Cup win. … Best career finish is second at Daytona in July.
Aric Almirola (2001) — Making second consecutive playoff appearance. … Finished a career-best fifth in last year’s playoffs.
Clint Bowyer (2000) — Making second consecutive playoff appearance. … Finished 12th in last year’s playoffs for his best finish in the points since he was seventh in 2013 for Michael Waltrip Racing. … Finished the regular season by placing seventh of better in each of the last three races.
Ryan Newman (2000) — Making second playoff appearance in the past four years. … Secured the final playoff spot with eighth-place finish Sunday at Indianapolis. … Finished career-best second in points in 2014 in the first year of the playoff format.