Las Vegan Kyle Busch was the first driver to punch his ticket into the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 19 after winning at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, the first of three races in the Round of 8.
Three spots are still available and the other seven eligible drivers can punch their own ticket into the Championship 4 by winning at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday or Phoenix International Raceway next week. It’s likely one of the Round of 8 drivers will win both of those races, so the final spot or two will have to point themselves in.
Here’s a look at how the standings are heading into Texas:
1. Kyle Busch: He’s already clinched, but he might get greedy and grab some more wins beginning with Texas, taking away an automatic berth. He’s won at Texas twice over his career and has 11 top-five finishes in 23 starts. This dude is getting stronger as the season goes.
2. Martin Truex Jr., +69 points ahead of the cutoff point: He’s won the past four races on 1.5-mile tracks and six of the nine this season. He’s the massive favorite to do it again this week. However, he was eighth in the April Texas race, which is tied for his worst finish on these types of tracks. He has only three top-fives at Texas in 24 starts.
3. Brad Keselowski +29: He won the first race on a 1.5-mile track this season at Atlanta – actually he vultured the win when Kevin Harvick got penalized – but he’s had only two top-fives on them in the next eight and none in the last five. He’s never won at Texas in 18 starts.
4. Kevin Harvick +3: He’s had top-five finishes in two of the past three races on 1.5-mile tracks. His best chance to make the Championship 4 is next week at Phoenix where he’s won a track record eight times. However, he’s never won there in a Ford, which he drives this season.
5. Jimmie Johnson -3: I could see the seven-time champ pointing himself in, but I don’t see him winning even though he’s won at Texas a record seven times, including the April race. But his car has fallen way off since the beginning of the season when they raced. Truex got better and Joe Gibbs Racing got better.
6. Denny Hamlin -6: This dude was sniffing to win a championship berth and went all out on his home track of Martinsville last week, doing everything possible to get the win. He came close, but also took out Chase Elliott, which gives us a nice storyline for the next two weeks with paybacks. He’s had top-five finishes in his last five starts on 1.5-mile tracks during the JGR progression with the new Camry body. He could point himself in.
7. Ryan Blaney -8: He’s a good long shot possibility this week due to finishing third at Kansas two weeks ago and leading a race-high 148 laps in the April Texas race.
8. Chase Elliott -26: He has to win to get in, but he’s yet to win in his career so why now? It stinks for him that he got taken out, but that’s short track playoff racing and you better do all you can to keep drivers off your bumper.