Cup drivers are off to Richmond this weekend for the second race in the opening round of the playoffs (7:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN).
Here is where the 16 playoff drivers stand with two races left before the field is cut to 12:
Martin Truex Jr.’s victory last weekend at Las Vegas sends him into the second round. Still, he could be a key factor in the first round. He won at Richmond in the spring for his first Cup short track victory and was headed for the win in last year’s race at the Charlotte Roval before a spinning Jimmie Johnson collected Truex in the final chicane.
Harvick finished second at Las Vegas, Keselowski was third, Elliott fourth. Logano placed ninth. Harvick, Keselowski and Logano also scored several stage points. Logano had 19 stage points to lead the group.
Hamlin is seventh in the points after his 15th-place finish. He has 2,056 points and is his 29 points ahead of Ryan Newman, the first driver outside the cutoff line. Hamlin has finished sixth or better in seven of the last eight Richmond races.
Busch is still in good shape despite his frustrating race and anger with slower cars. Collecting 45 playoff points, including 15 for the regular-season championship, provided the insurance he needed after his Vegas woes.
WORK TO DO
Larson is eighth in the points and followed by Byron. Larson sits 17 points ahead of Newman. Byron is 13 points ahead of Newman after Byron placed in the top 10 at Las Vegas.
Larson has four consecutive top 10s at Richmond. Byron’s best finish in three Richmond Cup races is 12th.
PRESSURE IS ON
Blaney has never finished better than 18th in seven Cup races at Richmond. He enters the weekend 12 points ahead of Newman, who is outside the cutline. If Blaney has another poor finish, he will need a good result at the Roval the following week to advance.
Bowman has never finished better than 12th in seven previous Richmond races. Almirola has two top 10s in his past seven Richmond races.
Newman is six points behind Almirola for the final transfer spot — the following weekend’s race at the Charlotte Roval is the cutoff race for the first round. Newman has three top 10s in his last five Richmond races. Kurt Busch, who is 14 points behind Almirola, has finished 11th or better in six of the last seven Richmond races.
Clint Bowyer and Erik Jones. Bowyer won the pole last weekend at Las Vegas and then scored zero stage points. Without any stage points from last weekend, Bowyer is 21 points out of the final transfer spot. He finished third at Richmond in the spring. Not sure if two top-five finishes in this round will be enough to help him advance.
Jones likely needs to win. At 26 points behind the cutoff line, Jones has the second-largest deficit to the cutoff line after one playoff race since the elimination format was created.
2082 — Martin Truex Jr. * (win moves him to second round)
2079 — Kevin Harvick
2075 — Joey Logano
2063 — Kyle Busch
2058 — Brad Keselowski
2057 — Chase Elliott
2056 — Denny Hamlin
2044 — Kyle Larson
2040 — William Byron
2039 — Ryan Blaney
2037 — Alex Bowman
2033 — Aric Almirola
CUTOFF LINE TO SECOND ROUND
2027 — Ryan Newman
2019 — Kurt Busch
2012 — Clint Bowyer
2007 — Erik Jones
For more on the playoffs, watch NASCAR America MotorMouths at 5 p.m. ET Wednesday on NBCSN