Stirring Up The Playoff Pot, Outside The Top 16

(Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

This weekend 16 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers begin their playoffs and the hunt for a NASCAR championship at Chicagoland Speedway. It also brings one of ten final chances to visit victory lane in 2017,  something 24 other drivers hope to accomplish as well. Wins are going to be key for the Championship contenders to move on to the next round. Those drivers outside of that top 16 are hoping a trip to victory lane will give new life to their season, all while stirring the pot of the Champsionship contenders.

Who are the drivers that missed this years playoffs that could end up muddying the waters in route to Homestead?

First, lets look at the drivers outside of the top 16 in points.

17. Clint Bowyer
18. Erik Jones
19. Joey Logano
20. Daniel Suarez
21. Trevor Bayne
22. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
23. Paul Menard
24. Ty Dillon
25. Michael McDowell
26. Chris Buescher
27. Aj Allmendinger
28. Danica Patrick
29. David Ragan
30. Aric Almirola
31. Matt Dibenedetto
32. Cole Whitt
33. Landon Cassill
34. * Corey Lajoie
35. Gray Gaulding
36. * Reed Sorenson
37. Jeffrey Earnhardt
38. Derrike Cope
39. Michael Waltrip
40. Billy Johnson

Now it’s not hard to elimate a handful of these drivers, but lets look at one that could easily be a factor at the biggest wildcard first. Talladega. The beast is no longer an elimination race, so the concern about losing everything in one swoop is lessened, but only slightly.

There are plenty of drivers outside of the top 16 that have this race circled as being the one chance they have to steal a win on the season. Starting with a former winner,
David Ragan. A trip to victory lane in 2013 and a driver that many like to hook up and draft with, Ragan could be a spoiler for that all important pass to the round of 8.

Other drivers that would like to spoil the party in Talladega, one would have to be at the head of the class, the pied piper,
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Nothing would excite Junior Nation more than to crash the playoff party in his final race at Talladega–The House That Earnhardt built.

Danica Patrick, in her final season in the No. 10 car and possibly in NASCAR all together. A very solid restrictor plate racer and you can expect that car to have a lot of speed.

Now to drivers that could muddy up the playoff pictures on the mile and a half tracks.

Leading the way in that category was the driver that was on many peoples list as a final four contender,
Joey Logano. The encumbered win hauted the No. 22 team all season, but a runner up at Richmond and the last time we were on a mile and a half track, Kentucky back in July, Logano came home 8th. Don’t be surprised to see him trying to spoil the show in Chicago, or maybe even towards the final round in Texas.

Outside of the Mile and a half tracks, there is one driver that sits outside of the top 16 that could easily be in had it not been for a rouge ambulance.
Clint Bowyer was making progress this season in his first year with Stewart-Haas. The driver of the No. 14 could be a pot stirrer and make some lobster soup in Loudon New Hamphsire next week. Bowyer has two wins at the Magic Mile, and while running in subpar equipment the last hanful of years, still managed top 25 runs.

These may be the top five that could wreak havoc on the playoff field over the next ten weeks, plus two rookies in Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez. These two are certainly capable of jumping up and stealing a win away from a Playoff driver. Then with each elimination, you add four more top qualify drivers that are still looking for wins.

The top 16 are battling for a right to race for a Championship in Homestead, and wins are going be vital.

Those coveted trips to victory lane certainly won’t come easy. If one of the drivers mentioned steals a win, there will be a surprise elimination.


Stephen Conley

If it races, I'll write about it, talk about it or shoot it with a camera.

I began pursuing a career in motorsports journalism immediately after attending college at Kent State University. I have hosted multiple Motorsports talk shows, worked in Country Music radio, and now i spend every day on the air in the morning with 1300 and 100.9 WMVO and in the afternoons watching the roadways around Central Ohio for 93.7 WQIO.

The excitement and the fans make everything I put out there worth while, it's been an exciting 15 years having covered everything from the Daytona 500 to the Rolex 24 and you can find me at pretty much any event run at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

What I like to bring is a look behind the scenes, a look at what and who makes the sport grow. From the guy that welds pieces back at the shop to the host in the tv booth.

Everyone has a story and I like to tell it. My main focus here at TPF is looking at the men and women behind the microphone and cameras.

My life long goal is to become a member of MRN or PRN Radio and bring the races to you. I hope that what I share now is enjoyable and gives you a unique look in to the world of motorsports.

See you at a track soon

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