INDIANAPOLIS – With one race left to formally set the 2019 16-driver Playoff field, there are three teams that have “swept” their way into the championship battle – and two others whose could match that mark after this week’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
One that’s certain – Joe Gibbs Racing has earned a Playoff opportunity for all four of its drivers – four-time winner and regular season champion Kyle Busch, four-race winners Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin and the newest winner this season, last weekend’s Darlington victor, Erik Jones.
Team Penske will field all three of their cars in the Playoffs. Defending Monster Energy Series champion Joey Logano challenged Busch for the regular season title all year and has a pair of wins heading to Indy. His teammate – the defending Brickyard 400 winner – Brad Keselowski has three wins in 2019 and the third driver, Ryan Blaney, is ranked 10th in the standings now and has locked himself in the Playoffs on points.
Chip Ganassi Racing is the other team with both of its drivers already eligible for the championship run. First-year CGR driver Kurt Busch won at Kentucky Speedway this summer. And Kyle Larson is ranked ninth in the standings, still looking for his win.
Stewart-Haas Racing is looking to get all four of its cars into the Playoffs for the second time. Two-race winner Kevin Harvick is locked in on wins, while teammate Aric Almirola secured a spot on points. Clint Bowyer (15th) and Daniel Suarez (16th) are looking to complete the SHR sweep heading into the regular season finale.
And Hendrick Motorsports currently has three of their four drivers in – Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman locked themselves in with wins, while William Byron is in on points. The fourth, and most veteran, member of the team – Jimmie Johnson – currently sits in 18th, just outside the Playoff cutoff.
Only eight points separate Bowyer (15th) from Suarez (16th) and Newman (17th). And 26 points separate Bowyer from 18th-place Jimmie Johnson. Of those four drivers, Johnson is a four-time Indianapolis winner and Newman won the 2013 race from the pole position.