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The Art of Racing 9-15
Playoffs begin Sunday
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Kyle Larson returned to Victory Lane in the final regular season Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. A caution flag was waved with only three laps remaining with Martin Truex Jr. in his familiar position -- first.
After all the lead lap cars came into the pits for fresh Goodyear tires, Larson won the race off pit row and held on for the victory. Larson’s victory ensured playoff spots for three drivers fighting for berths on points -- Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray and Matt Kenseth. 
Kenseth was fortunate because a driver with a previous victory won. An ambulance stopped on the apron near the pit road entrance forcing drivers to take evasive action, and Kenseth’s car plowed into the rear of Clint Bowyer, doing irreparable damage. Kenseth fell out of the race after 257 laps and had to wait until Larson’s victory eliminated the possibility of a first-time winner, a circumstance that would’ve eliminated Kenseth from the playoff.
The playoffs which start Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway, will consist of the final 10 Cup races. Four rounds will be contested with the first three rounds consisting of three races. Round 1 will have all 16 playoff drivers involved. The bottom four drivers will be eliminated with the surviving 12 drivers advancing to round 2. After the next three races, four more drivers will be eliminated. Eight drivers will race each other in the third round with the bottom four being eliminated going into the championship round. The final four drivers will race each other with the driver having the best finish being declared the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series 2017 Champion.
Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports each have three drivers in the Championships. Chip Ganassi Racing, Richard Childress Racing, and Stewart/Haas Racing all have two drivers contending for the championship. Roger Penske, Jack Roush, the Wood Brothers and Furniture Row Racing make up the other team owners. 
Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch are the hottest drivers at the start of the playoffs, but keep an eye on Jimmy Johnson. His Lowe’s Chevy team seems to rise to the occasion during the playoffs. With all the stage wins, his four victories and his first-place finish during the regular season gives Trues a 20-point lead going into the playoffs.
The remaining 15 drivers making up the playoff field are: Larson, the two Busch brothers, Keselowski, Johnson, Harvick, Hamlin, Stenhouse, Blaney, Elliott, Newman, Kahne, Dillo, Kenseth. and McMurray.