Ryan Blaney sits in third place in the NASCAR Cup Series point standings. So why is he only 15th of 16 drivers in the playoff picture with six regular season races to go?
The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season was Ryan Blaney’s fifth consecutive winning season, but it was his first season with multiple victories. He won at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Michigan International Speedway, and Daytona International Speedway.
But since his win at Daytona International Speedway to close out last year’s 26-race regular season in late August, Blaney has gone 30 races without a win. He did not win a playoff race last season, and he hasn’t finished higher than third place in any of the 2022 season’s first 20 races.
However, the driver of the #12 Ford for Team Penske still sits in an impressive third place in the point standings, thanks to his overall consistency and his ability to win stages and score good stage points.
So why does Blaney sit in 15th place in the playoff picture, with just one driver separating him from the cut line?
Because of the nature of the playoff format, those 14 drivers currently rank higher than Blaney does in the provisional 16-driver playoff picture.
Sitting in third place in the point standings, Blaney is the highest-ranking non-winner, so he sits in the penultimate spot in 15th place.
The only other non-winner above the playoff cut line is Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr., who sits 37 points behind Blaney. Blaney sits 105 points ahead of the first driver below the cut line, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick.
However, more winners could continue to push the cut line up, and Blaney could find himself in a situation where he misses the playoffs despite finishing as high as second place in the regular season point standings.
Blaney could technically lock himself into the playoffs without winning a race, and he could do so by winning the regular season championship. However, eliminating a 78-point deficit to points leader Chase Elliott won’t be easy.