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The Art of Racing - Season lacking drama

Rain played a big part of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Fire Keepers Casino 400 race in Michigan. Because of rain, the start of the race was delayed about 2-1/2 hours and only 133 of 200 laps were completed. An official race is anytime after the 2nd stage is complete. Strategy plays a big part in any race and Clint Bowyer used a two-tire stop after the second stage, which got him out front of the field. He held off teammates Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick for four laps when a spinning car brought out another caution. Then the rains came and NASCAR declared the race official with Bowyer declared the winner.

Fifteen races have been completed this season and with Bowyer’s two wins and Harvick’s five wins, Stewart-Haas Racing is taking home its seventh trophy. Harvick and Kurt Busch finished second and third, giving Stewart-Haas Racing its first 1-2-3 finish in team history. Currently, Busch and Aric Almirola are also playoff eligible giving Stewart-Haas Racing a huge role in the championship battle.

Eleven regular season races remain and the odds of 17 unique winners are incredibly thin this year. Harvick, Truex, Kyle Busch and Bowyer have multiple wins this year and are locked into the playoffs, provided they start the remaining regular-season races. Six different drivers have victories this year so 10 drivers would be selected to fill out the playoffs by point standings.

Only 31 drivers have started every Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race this year - 16 of them will make the playoffs. That means it’s easier to qualify for the NASCAR postseason right now than almost any stick-and-ball sport. To make the playoffs, a driver must start every regular-season race unless they’re given a medical waiver. Slots are given to 16 drivers for either their position in points or winning a race, as long as they finish 30th or better in the standings. There are currently 31 drivers, giving each of them a 51.6 percent chance to make the postseason.

Somehow this makes the regular season somewhat meaningless. Austin Dillon won the Daytona 500 and has done very little since. He currently sits 18th in the point standings but he still qualifies for the playoffs because of his win. By winning races early in the season, is there any incentive to race hard until the playoff?

Over half the playoff tracks are where aero push and down force are needed, and the teams of Harvick, Kyle Busch and Truex seem to have that figured out.

This week is an off-week with the next race on June 24 at Sonoma Raceway in California. This is the first road course of the season.