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The Art of Racing 6-30
Playoff spots at a premium
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Sixteen races have been completed in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and we have had 11 different winners. Joey Logano’s win in Richmond is encumbered because of a penalty, so he is not locked into the playoffs. 
There are 10 more races left in the regular season, which raises the possibility of having more than 16 different race winners. That means the race winner with the lowest points standing would not get into the playoffs.
Some of the top drivers without a win this year include Jamie McMurray, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch and Logano (his win does not count for the playoffs). All five of these drivers are in the top 16 in the standings. 
Two Hendrick Motorsports drivers, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne, are winless and out of the playoff picture. With Daytona coming up Sunday, Dale’s fans are hoping he can pull out a victory and make him playoff eligible.
Last Sunday’s race was the first road course Cup race and it was won by Kevin Harvick. This was Harvick’s first win this season and should lock him into the playoffs. This was also Harvick’s first win at Sonoma. When Harvick took the lead from Brad Keselowski with 20 laps to go, he had to go into a fuel-saving mode, but he maintained his lead to get the victory. “It’s been a lot of work,” Harvick said of Stewart-Haas Racing’s change to Ford for 2017. “We’ve been competitive. We just haven’t been to Victory Lane. This is worth the wait.”
Stewart-Haas Racing also had a second-place finisher in Clint Bowyer, who managed second with a banged-up racecar. To nobody’s surprise, Martin Truex Jr. won the first stage and led the most laps, but an engine failure ruined his day. Jimmy Johnson won the second stage but then struggled and finished outside the top 10. Only 38 cars started the race and despite all the banging and spinning, everyone finished the race except two.
Most fans like a road course because of all the action going behind the leader. Intermediate tracks seem to have a lot of follow-the-leader type racing, but there are lots of banging and position changes throughout the field on a road course.
The two points leaders had their problems at Sonoma. Kyle Larson made contact with a spinning Earnhardt Jr. and ended up finishing a lap down in 26th place. This gave second place Truex Jr. a chance to retake the points lead, but his engine troubles had him dropping out of the race, allowing Larson to increase his points lead from 5 to 13 points. 
The problems with Larson and Truex Jr. did allow everyone else to gain ground on the leading pair. Larson and Truex Jr. are still 100 points ahead of everyone else.