The Arizona Republic

Drivers face eliminatio­n from playoffs at Kansas

- Michelle R. Martinelli

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoff field is about to get smaller.

After Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway, the number of championsh­ip contenders will shrink from 12 to eight, after starting with 16 drivers in September in the 10-race shootout for the title. Going into the second eliminatio­n race of the playoffs, only Chase Elliott and Aric Almirola have locked themselves into the next round after winning the first two of the three races in the Round of 12.

Elliott won this month at Dover Internatio­nal Speedway for his second checkered flag of the season, while Almirola won last weekend at Talladega Superspeed­way. The remaining six spots will be determined by the results of Sunday’s race.

Who’s feeling good?

Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Ford, +63 ahead of the cutoff: Harvick has the most points of the remaining playoff drivers with 3,128, and his seven 2018 race wins plus three playoff stage wins got him here. If he doesn’t win the race and automatica­lly advance, he could get to the next round by earning 11 points, or finishing in the top half of the field, if there is a new winner.

Kyle Busch, No. 18 Toyota, +46: In a similar spot with Harvick, they’re tied for the most wins this season, Busch enters with 3,111 points. If there is a new winner, he needs 28 points to advance, which he could get with a high finish or off stage points. If there’s a repeat winner or a win by someone already in the top eight, he only needs 10 points to move on.

Joey Logano, No. 22 Ford, +39 points: With a new winner, Logano needs 35 points to advance, but he needs only 17 if the winner has already won this season or is among the top-8 drivers. The No. 22 car has one victory this season (Talladega’s spring race) but he has 3,104 points.

Who should be worried?

Kurt Busch, No. 41 Ford, +30: Busch was less than a lap away from victory at Talladega, which would have locked him into the next round and been his second checkered flag of the season. But he ran out of fuel, somewhat controvers­ially, and his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Almirola passed him by.

Clint Bowyer, No. 14 Ford, +21: If there’s a new winner, Bowyer needs 52 points to advance, but he could still get in with 35 points if there’s a repeat winner or someone already in the top eight finishes first.

Martin Truex Jr., No. 78 Toyota, +18: The defending series champion is on the bubble with 3,083 points. If there is a repeat winner or a victory from someone higher than him in the standings, he’ll keep racing for a second consecutiv­e title if he earns 38 points.

Who’s in trouble?

Brad Keselowski, No. 2 Ford, -18 points below the cutoff: Keselowski is the highest ranked driver of the four who enter the weekend on the outside looking in if the standings remain the same with 3,065 points.

Ryan Blaney, No. 12 Ford, -22: With 3,061 points, Blaney is in the same situation as Keselowski, his Penske teammate.

Kyle Larson, No. 42 Chevrolet, -36: Larson has to get his first win of the season or he’s out of the playoffs.

Alex Bowman, No. 88 Chevrolet, -68: Bowman is also in a win-or-gohome.

 ?? JASEN VINLOVE/USA TODAY SPORTS ?? Martin Truex Jr., seen Oct. 13 at Talladega Superspeed­way, is on the playoff bubble with 3,083 points.
JASEN VINLOVE/USA TODAY SPORTS Martin Truex Jr., seen Oct. 13 at Talladega Superspeed­way, is on the playoff bubble with 3,083 points.

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