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Mullins: I Donít See a New Winner At Richmond; We Know the Playoff Field

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RICHMOND, Va. Ė Currently, there are 13 drivers locked into the 2017 playoffs by virtue of a victory during the season. Three spots remain up in the air as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads into Richmond Raceway Saturday night.

Now, letís be realistic. In my opinion, I donít believe that any spots are ďopenĒ.

As we head into the 26th race of the NASCAR season, if you havenít locked yourself into the playoffs by now, the chances are slim to do so at a tough and demanding track. Despite being a 400-lap race and ďanything can happenĒ, I believe there wonít be any surprises in Virginia.

Martin Truex Jr., the regular season points champion, is one of 13 drivers to visit victory lane this year. In addition to Truex, Kyle Larson, Jimmie Johnson Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kevin Harvick, Ryan Blaney, Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Austin Dillon, and Kasey Kahne are in. The three drivers in the top-16 but winless in 2017 is Chase Elliott, Matt Kenseth, and Jamie McMurray.

The points lead that the three without wins have, as long as there isnít a new winner Saturday night in the Federated Auto Parts 400, they are in the show.

Fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr., can win the race as he is a past Richmond winner, but his season has been sub-par at best. The seriesí Most Popular Driver hasnít had a top-ten finish since Sonoma back in June.

Joey Logano, who won at Richmond in the Spring but had the playoff spot taken away due to failing tech inspection and have the win ďencumberedĒ, has barely sniffed the top-10 since winning the Toyota Owners 400.

Despite being on a hot streak with four top-fives in his last five race, including a runner-up finish at Bristol two weeks ago, Erik Jones could see checkers, but I wouldnít bet on it.

At Americaís Premier Short Track, anything can happen, but I doní see a new winner.

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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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