CONCORD, N.C. – With one race left in the regular season, the 16-driver playoff grid is coming into focus, but there are still spots up for grabs.
As the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the path to the postseason is clear for all four Hendrick Motorsports teammates.
Chase Elliott is already locked in thanks to his win last month at Watkins Glen. He is currently seventh in the playoff standings with eight playoff points – five for his race win and three for his three stage wins.
Jimmie Johnson and Alex Bowman are both currently among the top 16 drivers – in 15th and 16th, respectively – giving Hendrick Motorsports three teammates in playoff position, tied for the second-most among Cup Series teams.
There are multiple ways for Johnson to secure his spot.
If there is a new winner outside of the current 16-driver playoff grid, he would guarantee a clinch by scoring 37 points in Sunday’s Brickyard 400.
If there is a repeat winner, or a win by Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin, Aric Almirola or Bowman, he would clinch his spot on points regardless of his own finish.
For Bowman, the requirements are similar.
If there is a repeat winner, or a win by Larson, Blaney, Hamlin, Almirola or Johnson, Bowman would clinch on points regardless of his finish.
However, if there is a new winner outside the current 16-driver playoff grid, Bowman would need to out-point the 15th-place competitor by 20 points. If he were to earn a top-six finish at Indy, he would need to out-point the 15th-place competitor by 19 points.
For fellow Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron, the scenario is clear.
In order to make the playoffs, Byron would need to win Sunday’s Brickyard 400. Byron became the youngest driver to win a major race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway just last year when he found Victory Lane at the track in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at the precise age of 19 years, 7 months and 23 days.
The Brickyard 400 is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 9, and will be broadcast on NBCSN, IMS Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.