Joey Logano won Sunday’s inaugural NASCAR Cup Series race at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, but he wasn’t the biggest winner.
By earning his second victory of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season in Sunday afternoon’s inaugural race at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, the Enjoy Illinois 300, Team Penske’s Joey Logano officially secured his spot in the playoffs, giving him five consecutive playoff berths.
As a result, Logano is the fourth driver who has actually clinched a playoff spot this year, despite the fact that there have already been 11 winners through 15 races.
While the playoff format is largely deemed a “win and in” format, only the multi-race winners have locked up playoff spots thus far. Those drivers are Logano, Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron, Trackhouse Racing Team’s Ross Chastain, and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin.
Why? Because there is still a chance that the 26-race regular season can produce more than 16 different winners.
Even if there are more than 16 different winners, there are still just 16 playoff spots. The 16 playoff spots go to the regular season champion, regardless of how many wins he has (or doesn’t have), plus the 15 drivers who rank next highest in wins.
In the event that there are more than 16 different winners, not all single-race winners would get in. The tiebreaker among those single-race winners to determine who gets the final playoff berths would be points.
But because there can be no more than 13 multi-race winners in the regular season, drivers with two wins cannot fall out of the playoff picture.
However, even though Logano officially solidified his playoff berth on Sunday afternoon by becoming the 2022 season’s fourth multi-race winner, this is actually the reason why he wasn’t the biggest winner of the afternoon.
Logano sits in sixth place in the point standings, so even in the event that he remained a single-race winner and the regular season concluded with more than 16 different winners, there was only a very slim chance that he wouldn’t end up advancing to the postseason.
In his case, it really was “win and in”, and he had already won at Darlington Raceway.
But had Sunday’s race instead produced a 12th different winner, that would only increase the chances that the regular season ends up with more than 16 winners, therefore increasing the chances that some of the other single-race winners who rank lower in points fail to qualify for the postseason.
And it obviously wouldn’t help any of the non-winners either.
Three of the seven single-race winners sit in 14th place or lower in the standings, so the points cut line is already up between the 12th and 13th place drivers (Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick).
And despite being inside the top 16 in the point standings, there are three drivers who are currently outside of the playoff picture.
Logano effectively took away an opportunity to add a new winner, and that could prove crucial.
There are now 11 races remaining in the regular season. How many more new winners will emerge? Notably, five drivers who have finished runner-up in at least one race this year have not yet won, and seven full-time drivers who won at least one race last year have yet to do so in 2022.
By the time the regular season ends in late August at Daytona International Speedway, Logano’s second win could very well be the difference in a playoff cut line battle, either among single-race winners or non-winners, that has absolutely nothing to do with him.