by Jonathan Fjeld and Dominic Aragon
Michael McDowell’s win at Indianapolis drastically shifted the cutline as two races remain until the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs begin.
Three playoff spots remain for winless drivers. As of now, they’re Kevin Harvick (+145 points), Brad Keselowski (+143) and Bubba Wallace (+28).
Daniel Suarez (-28) and Ty Gibbs (-49) are within reach. Yet, if there are two new winners, only one winless driver will qualify for the postseason.
Right now, that is a battle between Harvick and Keselowski.
After earning a 20th-place finish and seven stage points, Brad Keselowski gained 10 points on Kevin Harvick who finished 23rd with no stage points.
A driver has never won their way into the playoffs with a win at Watkins Glen – but a perennial favorite is upping the ante and could fuel the battle between Harvick and Keselowski.
Chase Elliott earned his first Cup Series victory at Watkins Glen in August 2018. Then, he won again in 2019 and finished second during the next visit in 2021.
Last year, the NASCAR Cup Series champion led the most laps and was destined to return to victory lane at The Glen. Then, in turn one with five laps to go, teammate Kyle Larson locked up the brakes and pushed Elliott out of a win.
With Elliott’s situation, the teammates will likely play a little nicer if that situation arises again this Sunday. If so, and he wins, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski will go to Daytona on-edge.
In two of the last three years, a driver earned a playoff spot by winning at Daytona in August. If that happens again, the regular season will end with the cutline between Harvick and Keselowski.
At Daytona, RFK Racing will be strong – and Keselowski will have help from teammate Chris Buescher who is already in the playoffs.
Meanwhile, Stewart-Haas Racing is the only Ford organization with more than one driver below the cutline. That means all of Harvick’s teammates will be clamoring for a win too.
For now, the two Ford drivers will look to past success to control their own destiny at Watkins Glen.
Harvick has a win and 11 top-10 finishes in 21 races.
Keselowski finished second every year from 2011-13. He also led the most laps at the track in 2015-17 (75 total laps) and had one of the best cars in 2021 before mechanical issues hit.
If nothing else, they’ll root for a repeat or playoff-ineligible winner at The Glen to breathe easier at Daytona.
The Go Bowling at The Glen goes green Sunday, August 20, just after 3 p.m. ET. USA Network, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Ch. 90 will broadcast the race.