Points Update: Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick Experience That Sinking Feeling in NASCAR’s Playoff Race

The stat lines for Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick simply do not make sense. Harvick has led a miserly 13 laps all season while Truex has led at least that many in six races, including 172 over the weekend at Loudon. But while Truex is 68 points ahead in the NASCAR Cup Series standings, Harvick is finishing in the top five and top 10 more often.

There is one way in which their performances do converge: Neither has won a race, which is why we’re looking at a realistic possibility of both missing the playoffs when the field is set after the Daytona summer race.

Christopher Bell knocked Kevin Harvick far below the cut line

Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. walk the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 29, 2021. | Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. walk the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 29, 2021. | Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Christopher Bell’s victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway all but guaranteed the driver of the No. 20 Toyota another NASCAR Cup Series playoffs berth. In the course of doing so, he matched Kevin Harvick in top-five (5) and top-10 (11) results, but that’s where the similarities now end.

Bell became the season’s 14th winner, and that shoved Harvick into must-win territory. That’s because the driver of the No. 4 Ford dropped from a precarious but manageable 19 points under the playoff cut line to 68 points back. That’s too big a number to think about making up over the final six regular-season races, especially with two being on road courses. Though he’s placed between fourth and 11th in three races away from ovals in 2022, he gave away lots of points on road circuits a year ago.

Rank Driver Points Race Wins Stage Wins Playoff Pts Top 5 Top 10
1 Chase Elliott 734 3 5 20 7 14
2 Ross Chastain 667 2 3 13 10 14
3 Ryan Blaney 656 0 5 5 7 10
4 Martin Truex Jr. 619 0 7 7 3 8
5 Kyle Larson 616 1 2 7 8 10
6 Kyle Busch 594 1 1 6 6 11
7 Joey Logano 582 2 2 12 5 8
8 Christopher Bell 570 1 0 5 5 11
9 Kevin Harvick 551 0 0 0 5 11
10 William Byron 536 2 3 13 4 5
11 Alex Bowman 510 1 1 6 3 9
12 Aric Almirola 490 0 0 0 2 6
13 Austin Cindric 489 1 1 6 3 6
14 Kurt Busch 485 1 2 7 5 8
15 Daniel Suarez 479 1 2 7 4 8
16 Tyler Reddick 474 1 2 7 5 7

Martin Truex Jr. isn’t much better off than Kevin Harvick

Unless it’s Ryan Blaney, who’s one spot ahead of him in third place, the next winless driver to pull onto Victory Lane in the next month and a half sends Martin Truex Jr. below the playoff cutline, so his current 68-point lead over Kevin Harvick is virtually meaningless.

Aric Almirola and Erik Jones are both running in the top half of the field in points, so winning a race isn’t out of the question. Throw in veterans like Michael McDowell and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., plus Bubba Wallace coming off third place at Loudon, and Truex has to be feeling queasy.

Worse, two of the remaining six races are on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway infield and at Watkins Glen, and the Toyotas have been disappointing on road courses in the first year of the Next Gen car.

Missing the playoffs would be heartbreaking for Truex. He’s run more consistently than just about anyone in the Cup Series, yet Denny Hamlin has erased multiple bad outings with two victories, and even Alex Bowman has triumphed once in what is becoming a forgettable season.

Missing the shot at reaching the Championship 4 isn’t inevitable, but Truex is in trouble unless he wins.

Rank Driver Points Race Wins Stage Wins Playoff Pts Top 5 Top 10
17 Chase Briscoe 465 1 2 7 3 4
18 Erik Jones 465 0 0 0 2 6
19 Denny Hamlin 441 2 2 12 3 5
20 Austin Dillon 421 0 0 0 3 6
21 Michael McDowell 415 0 0 0 1 7
22 Justin Haley 391 0 0 0 1 2
23 Bubba Wallace 389 0 1 1 2 3
24 Chris Buescher 380 0 0 0 1 5
25 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 348 0 0 0 1 5
26 Cole Custer 333 0 0 0 0 1
27 Harrison Burton 319 0 0 0 0 1
Rank Driver Points Race Wins Stage Wins Playoff Pts Top 5 Top 10
28 Ty Dillon 314 0 0 0 0 1
29 Brad Keselowski 296 0 0 -10 0 3
30 Todd Gilliland 296 0 0 0 0 0
31 Corey LaJoie 227 0 0 0 1 1
32 Cody Ware 155 0 0 0 0 0
33 David Ragan 61 0 0 0 0 1
34 Joey Hand 44 0 0 0 0 0
35 Greg Biffle 24 0 0 0 0 0
36 Jacques Villeneuve 15 0 0 0 0 0
37 Boris Said 11 0 0 0 0 0
38 Kyle Tilley 7 0 0 0 0 0

All stats courtesy of Racing Reference.

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