The season of the NASCAR Cup Series continues to intrigue. There is only one race left in the Round of 16, but only one driver has fired his ticket to the Round of 12.
Christopher Bell, driver of the #20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry, secured his place in the next round with a solid day of points at Kansas Speedway. He won stage one, finished second on stage two, and third overall behind Bubba Wallace and Denny Hamlin. This was a strong enough performance to give him the lead in points, as well as a place in the round of 12.
Bell is currently 58 points above the cut-off line with a trip to Bristol Motor Speedway, which is the only safe. Now he can simply head to the short track and focus on systematically piling points instead of fighting for the all-important win like some of the other drivers.
William Byron sits in a similar position, albeit with no safe place in the round of 12. He is second in points after finishing sixth at Kansas Speedway, 48 points higher than the cut-off line. It should be relatively safe heading for the Tennessee Short Trail.
The fight in Cutline is heating up
There are many drivers in a great location heading to Bristol Motor Speedway. Bale is safe in round 12 while both Byron and Denny Hamlin are well above the cut-off line. Joey Logano also beats the cut-off line by 40 points despite finishing 17th at Kansas Speedway.
Drivers near the trim line, for comparison, are in a completely different position. The top three motors below the cut line are in close proximity while the three drivers above the cut line can easily cope with liquidation with the smallest of errors on the track or on the pothole road.
Chase Briscoe is nine points below the cutoff while Austin Dillon is three points lower. Kyle Busch is closest to the last transition point as he sits just two points below the cut-off line. Austin Cendrick and Tyler Riddick are the first drivers above the cut-off line, but they are only two points for the better. The #8 driver should feel lucky to be above the cut-off after finishing 35th because he hit the wall hard.
Daniel Suarez is in the best position among those closest to the cutting line. Although it is not in the safest mode. He’s six points above the cut-off line after the first two races, and will now head to a track where he’s taken two top 10 races.
1 driver continued his steady season
There was only one driver who was able to secure a place in qualifying without a win. That guy was Ryan Blaney, Team 12 driver for Pinske Ford. He scored the third most points during the regular season, and put himself in a position to stay above the limit entering the playoffs.
Blaney continued to accumulate points amid a winless season. He finished 13th in Darlington while the playoff drivers dealt with several issues. He then went out and finished ninth at Kansas Speedway after scoring points in all three stages. This includes second place in Phase 1.
Blaney still sits fifth in the championship standings with one race remaining in the round of 16. He sits 36 points above the cut-off line as he prepares for a chaotic short course. He didn’t take a win at Bristol Motor Speedway, but he did have five top ten spots and two top five. This includes fourth place during the 2021 qualifiers.
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