NASCAR playoffs: Two drivers are suddenly not safe

Brad Keselowski, RFK Racing, Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, RFK Racing, Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images) /

Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski could end up being in a points battle for the final position in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick and RFK Racing’s Brad Keselowski entered Sunday afternoon’s NASCAR Cup Series race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course feeling pretty good about their chances to qualify for the playoffs.

Harvick sat 180 points above the playoff cut line, with Keselowski only 12 points behind him, 168 points above the cutoff.

But Sunday afternoon’s Verizon 200 at the Brickyard produced a 13th different playoff eligible winner this season, with Front Row Motorsports’ Michael McDowell taking the checkered flag to score his second career victory.

With McDowell’s win, Harvick and Keselowski remain in the top two spots in the provisional playoff picture not occupied by race winners in 14th and 15th place, and they are still well above the cutoff, 145 and 143 points ahead, respectively.

However, it is suddenly looking like their battle could be for the final NASCAR Cup Series playoff spot.

There are two races remaining on the regular season schedule, one this coming Sunday afternoon at Watkins Glen International and another two Saturday evenings from now at Daytona International Speedway.

It would surprise absolutely nobody if winners 14 and 15 emerge in these two events, leaving only the 16th and final spot open for a driver to lock in on points.

Just look at the other drivers who finished this past Sunday afternoon’s road course race in the top three. Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott and Trackhouse Racing Team’s Daniel Suarez have both excelled in road course races, and they are both aiming to become the season’s 14th playoff eligible winner at Watkins Glen. Both should be among the favorites to do so.

And of course, Daytona is always a major wild card. With the type of racing that superspeedways produce, anybody can win that race and shake up the playoff picture.

Should two new winners not named Harvick or Keselowski emerge in these two races, the points battle between Harvick and Keselowski will determine which former champion makes the playoffs and which fails to do so.

No other non-winners can mathematically catch them in the point standings before the regular season ends, so at least one of them is indeed guaranteed to make it to the playoffs; they can’t both be left on the outside looking in.

23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace is the next highest non-winner and currently occupies the 16th and final playoff spot, but he is 115 points behind Keselowski with only 55 points available to non-winners in each of the regular season’s remaining two races.

DraftKings Sportsbook is now giving fans an instant $150 for betting $5, and they list Harvick at +2000 to win this year’s championship. Keselowski is listed with slightly longer odds at +2200, with Wallace a bit further back at +6500.

Odds and availability are subject to change, so lock in your $150 now!

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