Filling the final three playoff spots: You win and you're in

You won’t need a calculator for this year’s Monster Energy Cup Series clinch scenarios at Richmond Raceway.

Filling the final three playoff spots: You win and you're in
Start: Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota leads
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Drivers go four-wide to salute the fans before the start
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Ryan Blaney, Wood Brothers Racing Ford, Wood Brothers Racing, Jamie McMurray, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Clint Bowyer, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
Erik Jones, Furniture Row Racing Toyota
Joey Logano, Team Penske Ford
Daniel Suárez, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Trevor Bayne, Roush Fenway Racing Ford
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Paul Menard, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet

The math is simple. If there are no new winners, Chase Elliott, Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray will remain on the grid. 

If there is a new winner — and it’s not one of the three aforementioned drivers — then the driver with the least amount of points will be bumped out of the playoffs. 

Technically, any driver who is in the top 30 in the standings and wins — and that includes 15 drivers — could advance on Saturday night. But since that’s unlikely, let’s check out the top 10 of those drivers still seeking their first unencumbered victory of 2017.

Currently in

Chase Elliott (737 points) — Don’t expect Elliott to get that breakthrough win on Saturday. Although he was the top qualifying (ninth) Hendrick Motorsports Chevy — and the only one to qualify in the top 15 — Elliott’s top performance in four starts at Richmond is 12th. Although he’s completed every lap raced here, his average finish is 17.8.

Matt Kenseth (735 points) — Kenseth won the pole for the Federated Auto Parts 400 — a feat that even surprised the driver. Of these 10 drivers, Kenseth has the most starts (35). He’s won two races — including this event in 2017 — and has led 924 laps including 164 circuits in the spring.

Jamie McMurray (734 points) — McMurray’s three top-five finishes at Richmond have come in his last eight starts. In his last two starts on the .75-miler, his worst result is seventh. 

On the outside

Clint Bowyer (643 points) — It’s been 174 races since Bowyer’s last win (Charlotte 2012). Five races before that, he won this event — Bowyer’s second Richmond victory. More than have of Bowyer’s Richmond starts have resulted in top-10 finishes. 

Erik Jones (611 points) — Jones tweeted on Saturday he thought he’d be in contention all night at Richmond. The top qualifying (10th) rookie, who will replace Kenseth in the No. 20 Toyota at Joe Gibbs Racing next year, lasted just four laps here in the spring. But in four Xfinity starts, Jones posted three top-five finishes.

Joey Logano (605 points) — Logano won here in the spring, can he prove to the pundits that it had nothing to do with his illegal rear suspension? His record speaks for itself. Since joining Team Penske in 2013, Logano has just one finish outside of the top 10 at Richmond in nine starts. He starts 12th and will pit behind Kenseth and in front of Truex on Saturday.

Daniel Suarez (538 points) — In his first Cup start at Richmond, Suarez finished a respectable 12th. In six NXS start, Suarez finished a career-high fourth last spring and accumulated three top 10s.

Trevor Bayne (472 points) — Bayne has improved in each of his five starts at Richmond posting a career-best 13th-place finish in the spring. He’s also been running at the finish of each race and completed 99.8-percent of all laps. But it’s too little, too late for the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing team this year.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (431 points) — In a perfect NASCAR world, Junior would ride off into the sunset with a Richmond win just so he could participate in the playoffs during his final full season of Cup competition. Well folks, there’s no Santa Claus either. Yes, Earnhardt’s three wins top this list. And his 10 top-five finishes ranks second only to Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick. But the speed hasn’t been there all season and it’s not going to magically appear on Saturday night.

Paul Menard (429 points) — Menard is the only driver at Richard Childress Racing not to win this season. And Richmond — where he has just one top-five finish (2013) in 21 starts — isn't a track where a miracle is going to happen for the No. 27 Chevy. We wish Menard better luck next season with the Wood Brothers.

Watch this video of drivers on the bubble:

 

 

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