Major cup drivers are still looking for playoffs as summer arrives

Many NASCAR Cup drivers are cruising around the world this week, enjoying some vacation time in the only week of the long and winding season.

When the schedule resumes on June 26 at the Nashville Superspeedway on NBC, the first race of a long, hot summer, some key drivers face a heavy workload. The Nashville race is the first of a 10-event race through to the end of the regular season, and many top drivers, including Kevin HarvickAnd the Ryan BlaneyAnd the Martin Truex Jr. And the Brad Keselowskiremain in risky positions for qualifying.

The season so far has seen 12 different winners, and these drivers are almost certain to be in the qualifiers. That list includes four first-time winners (Austin CendrickAnd the Chase BriscoeAnd the Ross Chastain And the Daniel Suarez), and the victory lane success of these drivers made life more complicated for others who are generally considered regular players.

If the list of regular season wins contains fewer than 16 drivers, the points are used to select those who join the seasonal winners in the quest for the Cup Championship, but winning the race remains the easiest way to reach the playoffs.

The next 10 races involve road lap work, super speed and one short track. Here’s a look at 10 of the season’s non-winning drivers and what their best ways to join the qualifying group are:

Kevin Harvick Harvick has had a frustrating season without any wins and only 13 laps ahead, but his track record at the last 10 races of the regular season is excellent. He won seven of the 10 highways and had five wins in Michigan, four in New Hampshire, and three each in Atlanta and Richmond. But Harvick needs better cars and more consistent performance on the road.

Martin Truex Jr. The final race of the regular season is August 27 at Daytona International Speedway. As a last chance to qualify for the playoffs, this race will likely be more brutal than the typical ludicrous affair at Daytona. Truex may be advised not to rely on this last chance. He’s 0 for 34 in his career at Daytona. The former champion’s best shots in winning were at Richmond (three wins) and Pocono (twice).

Ryan Blaney The Penske driver won three times last season but hasn’t been able to make money this year despite scoring five times in the top five and driving more than 100 laps in Phoenix and Richmond. His list of career wins includes wins at upcoming tracks: Atlanta, Pocono, Michigan and Daytona. Blaney is currently the #1 winner on the playoff leaderboard, followed by Truex, Christopher Bell And the Eric Almerola.

Brad Keselowski Keselowski found the first season of owning and driving racing cars to be a challenge. He has only two places in the top 10 and has only led laps in three of the 16 races of the season. He’ll need better cars to get back into the playoffs, but his career record includes wins in Atlanta, Daytona, New Hampshire, Pocono and Richmond, so he knows the right tracks.

Christopher BellBale’s only career win came at Daytona Road, but he did a good job on many tracks to come. Richmond might be his best bet for a playoff win, as he has two sets of top players out there. In his short career, Bale also has a top-five run at Rhode America, New Hampshire, and Pocono.

Bubba Wallace Wallace’s season has been more bumpy than most, with bad lead times and bad luck shrouding the first half of the schedule. His best qualifying performance will obviously be the last race of the regular season in Daytona, where he has four top five players and where he nearly won the Daytona 500 in 2018. Wallace’s only career win came at Talladega, Daytona’s sister track.

Eric Almerola Almerola won at Daytona and New Hampshire but also had success on the other remaining tracks. He has two best fives in Pocono and Richmond. As Almerola says it will be his last full-time season in the Cup, He will be pressing to end his playoff career.

Austin DillonDaytona, where Dillon won the 500 in 2018It might be his best shot to get into the playoffs. He has two of the best fives out there. Michigan and Richmond were also good tracks for the Richard Childress Racing driver.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Stenhouse’s only two career wins came at Daytona and Talladega, so it’s easy to pick the end of the regular season at Daytona as Stenhouse’s best bet. He has the second best five out there. Richmond could give him an early chance for victory.

Eric Jones – Jones’ career has been sprinkled with top five runs in the remaining tracks, including Winning at Daytona in the 2018 Summer Race. Pocono was good for Jones, with five runs in the top five. He also has top five players in New Hampshire, Michigan and Watkins Glen.

Remaining races in the regular season:

June 26 – Nashville (5 p.m. ET, NBC)

July 3 – America Street (3pm ET, USA)

July 10 – Atlanta (3pm ET, USA)

July 17 – New Hampshire (3pm ET, USA)

Jul 24 – Pocono (3pm ET, USA)

July 31 – Indianapolis Road Course (2:30 p.m. ET, NBC)

August 7 – Michigan (3pm ET, USA)

August 14 – Richmond (3pm ET, USA)

August 21 – Watkins Glen (3pm ET, USA)

August 27 – Daytona (7 p.m. ET, NBC)