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The Art of Racing - Playoff picture clearing
Last week marked the end of the second round of the playoffs, cutting the field to eight drivers. The final eight contenders consist of all four of the Stewart-Haas Racing program, the first time it has ever happened. Ford is still the dominant manufacturer with five Fords in the third round. Two Toyotas and one Chevrolet join the Fords.
For the second time in three races, Chase Elliott took advantage of a Kevin Harvick mistake in the pits to win another playoff race. Two weeks ago, it was a lug nut that led to Harvick’s downfall. Last Sunday, it was a Harvick speeding penalty that took him down. Harvick is never too bashful in calling out his crew on their mistakes, and wouldn’t you like to see a crewman chew Harvick out for speeding on pit road?
At the start of the playoffs, Elliott was considered an early dropout in the field of 16. Some think his momentum has made him the favorite for the Championship, but he is the lone Chevy in the field and will need the misfortunes to continue for the Fords.
Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman were the bottom-four drivers heading into Kansas, and none of them were able to crack the final eight positions.
Bowman, who had to win the race, was never in contention. Blaney gave a strong performance, finishing inside the top five in both stages, but came in contact with the wall late in the race and missed the cut by six points. Keselowski had a strong run but could not overtake the top eight.
Larson also failed to crack the top eight after finishing third in the race. He had to go to a backup car after crashing during practice.
Martinsville, Texas and Phoenix make up the third round of the playoffs. All three tracks have been used during the regular season, with Kyle Busch having the best results. Busch finished second in Martinsville and Phoenix and won in Texas. Clint Bowyer won the spring Martinsville race and Harvick won the spring Phoenix race.
Playoff points, awarded for winning a race or winning a stage, are carried over in each round of the championship. Because of the huge number of playoff points won, Kyle Busch, Harvick and Martin Truex have a good lead over the other six contenders. Without these playoff points, both Kyle Busch and Harvick would not be in the final eight.

Kyle Busch carries a one-point lead over Harvick, while Truex and Elliott trail by 17 and 37, respectively. The bottom four has Bowyer, Joey Logano and Kurt Busch all 40 points behind and Aric Almirola trailing by 49.