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NASCAR Cup Series playoff picture: Five regular season races remain after Pocono

Joey Logano leads the regular season points standings by six points over Kyle Busch with five races left until the playoffs. Photo by Austin McFadden/TRE.

LONG POND, Pa. — After Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Gander RV 400 at Pocono Raceway on Sunday, five races remain until the playoffs. Here’s how the picture unfolds as crunch time amplifies:

Locked in

Kyle Busch (four wins, eight stage wins), Joey Logano (two wins; seven stage wins), Martin Truex Jr. (four wins, two stage wins), Brad Keselowski (three wins, four stage wins), Denny Hamlin (three wins, three stage wins), Kevin Harvick (one win, four stage wins), Kurt Busch (one win, one stage win), Chase Elliott (one win, two stage wins), and Alex Bowman (one win, zero stage wins)

On the bubble

Aric Almirola +94 The driver of the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Mustang lost four points to the cut line with his 12-place finish Sunday but remains in a comfortable position with five races left in the regular season.

Ryan Blaney +79 — Despite his ninth top-10 of the season, Blaney lost five points to the cut line with his 10th-place effort. While his teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski have a combined five wins, Blaney will try to get his No. 12 Penske Racing Mustang in Victory Lane before the playoffs.

William Byron +62 — The driver of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Camaro charged from 31st to fourth and added one point to his playoff cushion.

Erik Jones +39 — Of the nine drivers that could make it in on points alone, Jones exits the biggest winner Sunday with his runner-up finish. It’s also Jones’ fifth top-five finish in the last nine races, extending his playoff cushion by 11 points.

Kyle Larson +37 — The driver of the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Camaro nearly flummoxed his weekend on Saturday when he junked his primary car in a solo crash in practice. But Larson wheeled from the rear to finish fifth and add six points to his playoff cushion.

Clint Bowyer +12 — Bowyer’s already slim playoff advantage narrowed even more after an 11th-place finish Sunday, losing five points to Jimmie Johnson. These next five races could determine Bowyer’s future with Stewart-Haas.

Ryan Newman +12 — Strategy put Newman in the top three early, but the driver of the No. 6 Roush-Fenway Mustang couldn’t make it stick, falling down the pecking order to finish 14th and lose nine points in the process

On the chopping block

Jimmie Johnson -12 — Good news: Jimmie salvaged a stage win Sunday, a cool 10 points which could be the difference in the end. Bad news: He didn’t capitalize on a promising effort, finishing 15th. He remains 12 points below the cutoff

Daniel Suarez -31 Suarez’s day started strong, running in the top 10 and in contention for a top 10 late in the ball game. But a penalty on a restart with eight to go kicked Suarez from 15th to 24th, an inopportune mistake costing him nine points

Paul Menard -68 Mathematically, Menard can still make it in on points, but 18th-place finishes like Sunday clearly won’t do the job. He has to gain on average 14 points on the cutline for the next five races or find a way to Victory Lane to make the playoffs.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -88 Stenhouse is practically in must-win mode now, having lost 11 more points to the cut line with ahis 24-place finish Sunday.

Within 100-200 points of 16th: Chris Buescher, Austin Dillon, Ty Dillon, Matt DiBenedetto, Daniel Hemric

Remaining regular season schedule

Sunday, Aug. 4 — GoBowling at The Glen, at Watkins Glen International

Sunday, Aug. 11 — Consumers Energy 400, at Michigan International Speedway

Saturday, Aug. 17 — Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race, at Bristol Motor Speedway

Sunday, Sept. 1 — Bojangles’ Southern 500, at Darlington Raceway

Sunday, Sept. 8 — Big Machine Vodka at the Brickyard, at Indianapolis Motor Speedway




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