Mother Nature played a role once again as the Crayon 301 moved to Monday and Martin Truex Jr. took home the lobster for winning at New Hampshire. Now NASCAR heads to the Tricky Triangle at Pocono Raceway for the HighPoint.Com 400. With just six races remaining in the regular season, the intensity picks up as several drivers hope to secure a win and punch their ticket to the playoffs. Before we dive into this weekend’s race, let’s take a look at the playoff picture as it currently stands.
Playoff Picture Headed Into the HighPoint.Com 400
Through 20 races thus far, 12 different drivers found their way to victory lane. Chicago Street Circuit winner Shane Van Gisbergen’s victory, while historic, doesn’t qualify him for the playoffs as he is not running for points in 2023. Without SVG, eleven drivers find themselves locked into the playoffs. Check out the list below for those names.
- Martin Truex Jr. – Three Wins
- William Byron – Four Wins
- Kyle Busch – Three Wins
- Denny Hamlin – One Win
- Kyle Larson – Two Wins
- Ross Chastain – One Win
- Christopher Bell – One Win
- Ryan Blaney – One Win
- Joey Logano – One Win
- Tyler Reddick – One Win
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – One Win
With eleven drivers locked into the playoffs, five spots sit ready for the taking. Should a driver below the cut line win, they would be bumped up into the list above. The list below shows the five drivers currently in the playoffs based on points.
- Kevin Harvick – 137 Points Above Cut Line
- Brad Keselowski – 108 Points Above Cut Line
- Chris Buescher – 97 Points Above Cut Line
- Bubba Wallace – Two Points Above Cut Line
- Michael McDowell – One Point Above Cut Line
Outside Looking In
As it currently stands, the eleven winners plus the five above make up the current playoff field. However, Daniel Suárez sits just one point below the cut line while AJ Allmendinger needs just 20 points to find his way into the playoff picture. Additionally, two road courses that Allmendinger has on in the past remain before the end of the regular season at Indianapolis and Watkins Glen.
Ty Gibbs and Alex Bowman sit 41 and 42 points back respectively. Though they could theoretically point their way in, both will likely need a win for a playoff berth. Bowman missed races this year due to injury as did his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott. Elliott’s situation is more dire as he almost certainly needs a win sitting sixty points below the cut line. Below are the six races left in the season as well as the type of track.
- HighPoint.Com 400 – Pocono Raceway (2.5-mile Three Turn Track)
- Cook Out 400 – Richmond Raceway (0.75-mile Short Track)
- FireKeepers Casino 400 – Michigan International Speedway (2.0-mile Tri-Oval)
- Verizon 200 at the Brickyard – Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course (2.439-mile Road Course)
- Go Bowling at The Glen – Watkins Glen International (2.428-mile Road Course)
- Coke Zero Sugar 400 – Daytona International Speedway (2.5-mile Superspeedway)
With two road courses and a superspeedway leading into the playoffs, a new winner on the season feels like a virtual lock. For now, though, we focus on Pocono.
HighPoint.Com 400 Predictions
As NASCAR’s summer stretch rolls on, several drivers will hope to find their way to Victory Lane at Pocono and punch their ticket to the playoffs. The entry list for the race doesn’t have any surprises with most of the guest appearances reserved for later on at the road courses.
Chase Elliott will hope to duplicate his 2022 performance at Pocono Raceway by making his way to victory lane once more. However, it is important to note that Elliott found himself celebrating victory after two Joe Gibbs Racing cars were disqualified. I don’t know if the #9 team will have the outright speed to do much more than finish in the top ten but strategy can play a role at Pocono so that’s something to keep in mind.
As for who I see winning the race, Denny Hamlin has long been one of the best at the Tricky Triangle. Hamlin holds a track record share with six wins at Pocono Raceway and would hold the record outright were he not the driver disqualified last year. You can count on Hamlin to be a factor once more at Pocono.
Make sure to check out the weekend schedule below so you don’t miss any action from Pocono Raceway. Keep your fingers crossed that we don’t have another set of delays due to the weather.
NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Qualifying – 1:05 p.m. CT on FS1
NASCAR Xfinity Series Qualifying – 3:05 p.m. CT on USA
Sunset Hill Shooting Range 150 (ARCA Menards Series) – 5:00 p.m. CT on FS1
CRC Brakleen 150 (NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series) – 11:00 a.m. CT on FS1
NASCAR Cup Series Qualifying – 2:20 p.m. CT on USA
Pocono 225 (NASCAR Xfinity Series) – 4:30 p.m. CT on USA
HighPoint.com 400 (NASCAR Cup Series) – 1:30 p.m. CT on USA