The battle for the final wildcard spots is getting good. As we leave Watkins Glen on Sunday, we have a tie for the 16th and final spot into the postseason. Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman have a margin of zero between them. Clint Bowyer is +12 in 15th while Kyle Larson got more separation in 14th as he’s now +46. Meanwhile, Daniel Suarez fell to 23 points out while Paul Menard -61 and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -78 are 19th and 20th respectively themselves.
It’s coming down to Bowyer, Johnson and Newman with two making it and one going home. For Sunday’s Go Bowling at the Glen, it was all about stage points.
15 of the 16 drivers that are currently on the good side of the playoff grid scored stage points. All four drivers that are in the striking zone 17th-20th, scored none.
That’s how Johnson made up 12 points despite finishing 19th. He scored six stage points and despite being spun by Ryan Blaney with 29 laps remaining in Sunday’s race, he moved into a tie with Newman.
Also, Newman had a struggling day and had a tire go down on Lap 51. Then, he was hit with a penalty for driving through too many boxes on his stop and would be relegated to a 25th place run. That combined with Johnson’s stage points mean they’re tied with four races left in the regular season.
Bowyer, finished 20th but he scored seven stage points. He’s had zero top five finishes since June and his last eight finishes are – 35th, 11th, 37th, 34th, 6th, 20th, 11th and 20th respectively.
Johnson’s last four finishes are – 15th, 15th, 30th and 19th respectively.
For Larson, he’s going to keep pulling ahead as he’s scored three top five finishes in his last four starts on the season and five top 10’s in his last seven. He scored four stage points but brought his No. 42 Chevrolet home eighth in the race.
Erik Jones has made up 67 points in four races as he earned his fourth straight top four finish in his No. 20 Toyota. He’s 54 points to the good.
William Byron is +60 while Ryan Blaney (+89) and Aric Almirola (+96) are still good.
There’s also this, Kyle Busch has caught and passed Joey Logano for the overall points lead. He’s up by 13 now. Where this is big is, the regular season champion nets 15 additional playoff points. That’s the equivalent to three race wins.
Busch, has scored just one top five in his last six starts but Logano has been much worse since his June win at Michigan. His last seven finishes are – 23rd, 3rd, 25th, 7th, 9th, 13th and 21st respectively.