There are two NASCAR races remaining, including this Sunday night’s Southern 500, and drivers at the cutoff point for the Monster Energy Cup playoffs are starting to feel the pressure. Several drivers are hovering around the bubble, and need to make a move either here at Darlington, or next week at the Brickyard.
Two points separate the final driver in the playoffs, Daniel Suarez, from Clint Bowyer. Jimmie Johnson, who hasn’t missed the postseason in his 16-year career, is 26 points out of the last spot.
Odds to Win Southern 500
Kyle Larson 5/1
Denny Hamlin 6/1
Kevin Harvick 6/1
Brad Keselowski 6/1
Joey Logano 6/1
Kyle Busch 6/1
Martin Truex Jr. 6/1
Odds Courtesy of Westgate LV SuperBook
Johnson has not had a top-10 finish since the second visit to Daytona in July, where he finished third. His best finish since that race was 15th at Pocono on July 28. He does have victories in 2004 and 2012.
Johnson knows that he needs to make a move in the next two weeks. He also realizes how difficult to win at Darlington, nicknamed “The Track too Tough to Tame.”
“Darlington just has its own persona,” Johnson said. “The Southern 500 has always been a spectacle to see. The track is so difficult and gritty to drive, it can tear you up pretty easy. It’s a long night and usually a hot one. “We know what we have to do, and I am excited about the direction we have taken as a team.”
Others Need Strong Finish
Johnson isn’t the only one on the bubble. Ryan Newman is in 15th place, and said that Darlington is a special place.
“Darlington is no doubt my favorite track on the circuit and a weekend I have circled every year,” Newman said. “Winning a Southern 500 has always been a goal of mine and it would rank near the top of everything I’ve accomplished in my career thus far.”
Monster Energy Cup Playoff Bubble Boys (Top 16 Qualify)
Standing Driver Points
No. 14 Eric Jones 646
No. 15 Ryan Newman 603
No. 16 Daniel Suarez 591
No. 17 Clint Bowyer 589
No. 18 Jimmie Johnson 565
No. 19 Paul Menard 520
One driver that is in serious danger of missing out on the playoffs is Ricky Stenhouse. He is 21st in the standings, and hasn’t much luck at Darlington. He did have his best finish there last year, placing 12th.
We haven’t had the best of luck at Darlington,” Stenhouse said. The track is tough hence its nickname ‘Too Tough to Tame’. Last year we had our best finish there and I think we learned some things that hopefully can translate into this weekend.”