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Is this the year NASCAR has more winners than playoff spots?

By Bob Pockrass
FOX Sports NASCAR Writer

SONOMA, Calif. — A typical thought in sports activities is to not doubt the mathematically attainable.

Except with regards to the variety of winners in the NASCAR common season.

The 26-race common season units the 16-driver playoff subject, which consists of the regular-season champion and the subsequent 15 drivers primarily based on wins, with ties damaged by factors.

In every of the eight years of the present format, at the very least three winless drivers have made the playoffs on factors.

But might this be the year no drivers make it on factors? Could a driver with a victory really miss the playoffs?

Denny Hamlin breaks down NASCAR playoff spots

Denny Hamlin would not suppose there shall be more winners than NASCAR playoff spots in 2022. “You’ll be fortunate to have 14 [winners],” he mentioned.

Daniel Suarez turned the Twelfth winner in 16 races this year when he triumphed Sunday at Sonoma Raceway. At this level, it’s straightforward to think about 5 further winners in the subsequent 10 occasions.

But ask Suarez workforce proprietor Justin Marks about it, and he doesn’t need to predict {that a} driver with a win might miss the postseason.

“Anything can occur,” Marks mentioned Sunday. “I do not actually really feel like it may be that method.

“I do not suppose we take into consideration that till there’s 16 winners and a race or more left.” 

Conventional knowledge says it received’t occur. After all, it hasn’t occurred but, and the drivers who’ve received races this year have, for the most half, continued to run up entrance.

Three highway programs (Road America, Indianapolis and Watkins Glen) in addition to two drafting tracks (Atlanta and the regular-season finale at Daytona) stay in the common season. Those races are the most probably to provide unpredictable outcomes. The different 5 tracks (Nashville, New Hampshire, Pocono, Michigan and Richmond) are inclined to have more conventional winners.

Justin Marks on there being more winners than playoff spots

Justin Marks mentioned he received’t take into consideration there being more winners than playoff spots till there have been 16 winners with at the very least one race remaining in the NASCAR common season.

Before Suarez received at Sonoma, Denny Hamlin scoffed at the concept of 17 winners.

“There’s not going to be 17 winners,” he mentioned. “We may give up that one. No likelihood. You’ll be fortunate to have 14.”

Hamlin has two victories, so he has no worries about making the playoffs. The first tiebreaker is wins, so with two victories every, Hamlin, Joey Logano, William Byron and Ross Chastain all know they’re in.

But Hamlin’s 23XI Racing driver, Kurt Busch, now sits lowest in factors amongst these with one win, seven behind Austin Cindric and 11 behind Suarez.

“Never say by no means, however for us, it nonetheless is racing as sensible as we will,” Busch mentioned previous to Sonoma.

Cindric wanted a fifth-place end at Sonoma to maneuver forward of Busch in the standings. As a lot as he needed to be comfortable for Suarez (and he was), he’s seeing the growing chance of 17 winners and, with that, the chance that his Daytona 500 win won’t put him in the playoffs as initially thought.

“It’s clearly one thing it’s important to take note of,” Cindric mentioned. “You take a look at the closing restart [at Sonoma], and I’m lining up sixth or seventh, and I’m the first winner in the line. You have to concentrate to these issues.

“I’m not blind to it. It’s not going to vary how I race and attempt to maximize the day. … The prime 16 in factors is the best solution to lock myself in.” 

That’s as a result of so long as drivers have a win and are top-16 in the standings, there is no such thing as a method for them to get knocked out.

However, a driver akin to Cindric, at the moment 18th in the total standings, has to fret about drivers under him in the standings incomes a win and vaulting over him in the factors. A driver forward of him in the standings incomes a win received’t make a lot of a distinction.

Austin Cindric on playoffs and present standings

Austin Cindric may very well be on the playoff bubble if there are 17 Cup winners. He shares his ideas after Daniel Suarez turned the Twelfth winner of the season.

Seven full-time Cup drivers who received final year haven’t but received this year: Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr., Christopher Bell, Aric Almirola, Michael McDowell, Bubba Wallace and Brad Keselowski.

Four of these — Blaney, Truex, Bell and Almirola — are in the prime 11 in the standings. Almirola is seven factors forward of Twelfth-place (and winless) Kevin Harvick for the present final spot on factors.

For his half, Bell doesn’t need to hear about the chance of 17 winners.

“Stop bringing it up,” he mentioned with amusing.

Christopher Bell’s plan for the NASCAR playoffs

Christopher Bell talks about his technique for making the NASCAR playoffs.

He did, nevertheless, acknowledge that his workforce makes a technique selection at the finish of phases on highway programs whether or not to earn stage factors even when it would damage monitor place for the subsequent stage.

“At some level, we’re going to expire of recent first-time winners,” he mentioned previous to Suarez’s win. “Hopefully it’s reasonably quickly for the place I’m in in factors. We’re centered on making an attempt to turn out to be considered one of them.”

Some drivers strive to not sweat it out. They view the bubble and the chatter about whether or not there is perhaps more winners than playoff spots as simply noise. Get the job finished on the monitor, and people issues deal with themselves.

“Just inform me the place I’m at at the finish of 26. If we’re in, we’re in. If we’re out, we’re out,” Harvick mentioned. “We both did ok or not ok.

“I’ve a lot different stuff to consider — to attempt to assist with the vehicles and go to totally different locations each week — that I can’t actually matter factors.”

Kevin Harvick on his playoff place

Kevin Harvick says he received’t be worrying about the place he stands when it comes to the NASCAR playoff bubble.

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Thinking out loud

NASCAR made a superb determination previous to the truck race Saturday: If Daniel Suarez relieved Carson Hocevar throughout the race at Sonoma after which received, Hocevar wouldn’t have the ability to use that victory for an automated bid to the playoffs.

While NASCAR has by no means been confronted with this situation in its playoff format period, it’s one thing that appeared attainable when Hocevar (damaged tibia) deliberate to start out the race and in some unspecified time in the future hand the wheel to Suarez (who ended up ending sixth).

The driver who begins the race is the driver of file and earns the factors. It’s effectively established in motorsports that the beginning driver earns the factors even when the aid driver finishes.

But NASCAR can’t have groups making an attempt to recreation the system by placing a aid driver in early in hopes of getting the beginning driver an automated bid with a win. 

It could be higher if there have been a definite rule; at the moment, it is NASCAR’s determination if a win should not rely towards the playoffs primarily based on any infractions or actions thought-about detrimental to racing. And whereas not intentional in this occasion due to the seriousness of Hocevar’s harm, it will be detrimental to racing to award a playoff bid for a win when the driver making the playoffs wasn’t in the seat to cross the end line.

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Stat of the day

With Daniel Suarez (Mexico) successful at Sonoma, 5 worldwide drivers have received in Cup. The others are Marcos Ambrose (Australia), Juan Pablo Montoya (Colombia), Earl Ross (Canada) and Mario Andretti (Italy).

They mentioned it

“If I used to be capable of come all the method right here, I wasn’t going to surrender right here.” — Suarez after his Sonoma victory

Bob Pockrass has spent a long time masking motorsports, together with the previous 30 Daytona 500s. He joined FOX Sports in 2019 following stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene journal and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @bobpockrass. Looking for more NASCAR content? Sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass!

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