MENCS: Darlington Marks First of Two Final Races for Drivers to Make Playoffs


With just two more races until the start of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, Darlington Raceway may not change the landscape of the postseason. Known as a tough track, the Lady in Black, is unforgiving to drivers with most drivers earning a “Darlington stripe” at one point in the weekend.

Five of the last nine race winners are already locked in the postseason. Last year’s race winner Martin Truex Jr. is leading the playoff standings, while previous winners Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch are also locked into this year’s playoffs by virtue of race victories.

Two of the four previous winners that are not locked into the postseason are retired – Carl Edwards and Mark Martin – while one of the four isn’t ruing a full-time schedule, Regan Smith. The fourth and final driver that has won at Darlington and not locked into the playoff’s is Matt Kenseth.

Kenseth, the driver of the No 20 joe Gibbs Racing entry, won at Darlington back in 2011, can still make the playoffs on points alone, but that means at the next two tracks – Darlington and Richmond – there can’t be a new race winner. Currently 61 points ahead of Clint Bowyer in 16th place, Kenseth is hoping to relive the 2011 season and end the night in victory lane.

Just like Kenseth, two other drivers – Chase Elliott and Jamie McMurray – are winless in 2017, but within the top-16 in the playoff standings. Elliott is 69 points to the good while McMurray is 58 points ahead the cut-off line.

In only two races at Darlington, Elliott has a best finish of 10th which came last year, while his other finish was 41st in 2015 after being involved in a wreck. On the other hand, McMurray has three top-five and five top-ten finishes in 16 starts. He started on the pole in 2010 and finished in second place that year.

So will we see a new winner this weekend at Darlington? History doesn’t seem to favor it.

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About Jacob Mullins

Jacob Mullins serves as the managing editor and senior NASCAR writer covering all three national touring series's. You can find him on on Twitter at @JMulls15. An intercollegiate athletic administrator by trade, Mullins can be found at the big tracks as well as the local short tracks in the Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania area. Mullins enjoys social media, photography and graphic design. A native of West Chester, Pennsylvania, Mullins follows all forms of racing, Major League Baseball (Baltimore Orioles) and college football (Virginia Tech Hokies).

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