Despite winning Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Darlington Raceway, Joey Logano did not clinch a spot in this year’s playoffs.
Team Penske’s Joey Logano dumped Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron in the closing laps of Sunday’s Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway en route to securing his first victory of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season.
The win ended a 40-race win drought for Logano, his longest since joining Team Penske. He had not won a race since the March 2021 dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Despite winning Sunday afternoon’s 293-lap race around the four-turn, 1.366-miel (2.198-kilometer) egg-shaped oval in Darlington, South Carolina, however, the driver of the #22 Ford did not clinch a playoff spot.
The playoff format is largely considered a “win and in” format, but that isn’t exactly the case, even though it has historically played out that way.
A total of 10 different drivers have won at least one of the season’s first 12 races, and nobody has won more than twice. With 14 races remaining in the regular season, there is very much a chance that there will be at least 16 different winners by the time the playoffs begin. In fact, eight full-time drivers who won last year have yet to win this year.
But even if there are more than 16 different winners, there are still only 16 playoff spots. The playoff spots go to the regular season points champion (with or without any wins) and the 15 drivers who rank next highest in wins.
So at this point, the only two drivers who are truly “locked in” are Byron and Trackhouse Racing Team’s Ross Chastain, since they have both won two races in 2022 and there can be no more than 13 multi-race winners in the 26-race regular season.
While Logano hasn’t locked himself in, however, he should still be safe. In the event that there are more than 16 different winners, the tiebreaker among the one-race winners becomes points. Logano sits in fourth place in the point standings, so even if he finishes the regular season with just one win, he probably won’t need to panic.
Interestingly, the 2021 season also saw 10 different winners in the first 12 races, though in that case, one driver had three wins while nine had one each. But only three more full-time drivers won throughout the rest of the regular season, and all of the winners comfortably advanced to the postseason.