All three series race at Pocono this week, and here's what that playoff view looks like.
Strange as it may seem—after all, the Poconos are hardly known as a big-time racing mecca—everybody who’s anybody in NASCAR racing will be at Pocono Raceway in northeastern Pennsylvania this weekend.
The Camping World Truck Series has a 60-lap, 150-mile race at noon on Saturday, the CRC Brakleen 150. The Xfinity Series has a 90-lap, 225-mile race much later in the afternoon, the Pocono Mountains 225. And the Cup Series has a 160-lap, 400-mile race on Sunday afternoon at 3:00, the M&M’s 400.
As usual at this time of year, points and playoffs and the dreaded “bubble” will command the spotlight at the 2.5-mile, three-sided track.
Here’s to catching everyone up on what’s at stake:
Christopher Bell, right, joined the winners’ circle and that’s put the heat on Martin Truex Jr., left.
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Race winners have already claimed 14 of the 16 Cup Series playoff spots. That leaves two vacancies waiting to be filled during the upcoming regular-season races at Pocono, Indy, Michigan, Richmond, Watkins Glen, and Daytona Beach. Based on points, winless Ryan Blaney is an unsettling 15th on the 16-driver grid and winless Martin Truex Jr. is a more-unsettling 16th. (The “bubble,” you know).
They need to win quickly or hope no new ’22 winners emerge to snatch away the remaining spot (or two). Former champion Kevin Harvick looms as perhaps the most likely “outsider” to do that down… but he’s been less-than-impressive this year. If he wins, Blaney or Truex Jr. will be on the outside looking in unless they, too, can win.
As of today, the Cup Series Playoff grid includes multi-time winners Chase Elliott, Ross Chastain, Joey Logano, William Byron, and Denny Hamlin. One-time winners Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch, Christopher Bell, Alex Bowman, Austin Cindric, Kurt Busch, Daniel Suarez, Tyler Reddick, and Chase Briscoe are in… but not as in as they’d like to be.
2022 Cup Winners
Two spots still up for grabs, six races remaining until the Playoffs.
- Chase Elliott (3)
- Ross Chastain (2)
- Joey Logano (2)
- William Byron (2)
- Denny Hamlin (2)
- Kyle Larson (1)
- Kyle Busch (1)
- Christopher Bell (1)
- Alex Bowman (1)
- Austin Cindric (1)
- Kurt Bush (1)
- Daniel Suarez (1)
- Tyler Reddick (1)
- Chase Briscoe (1)
The 10-race Playoff series opens Sept. 4 (Labor Day weekend) at Darlington, S.C. It goes non-stop for nine more weekends to Kansas City, Bristol, Tenn., Fort Worth, Talladega, Charlotte, Las Vegas, Homestead, and Martinsville, Va., with the champion crowned Nov. 7 at Avondale, Az.
Based on victories and points, the field will be trimmed from 16 to 12 contenders after Bristol, from 12 to eight after Charlotte, and from eight to four after Martinsville. The Cup Series champion will be the highest finisher among the final four, regardless of where they finish overall at Avondale.
Things are similarly complicated in the Xfinity and Camping World series:
Ty Gibbs (54), Josh Berry (8) can take it easy in the Xfinity Series this weekend at Pocono.
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Xfinity Series Picture
Seven winners have secured spots in the 12-driver Xfinity Series playoff field. Entering this weekend, Ty Gibbs (four victories), Justin Allgaier (three), AJ Allmendinger, Noah Gragson, Josh Berry, and Austin Hill (two each), and Brandon Jones are in. With six regular-season races remaining, five places are available. Based on points, winless drivers Sam Mayer, Riley Herbst, Daniel Hemric, Ryan Sieg, and Landon Cassill are above the 12-driver cutline. Safe for now, but that can—and almost certainly will—change every weekend. (There’s that “bubble” again).
Five spots available, six races remain until the Playoffs.
- Ty Gibbs (4)
- Justin Allgaier (3)
- AJ Allmendinger (2)
- Noah Gragson (2)
- Josh Berry (2)
- Austin Hill (2)
- Brandon Jones (1)
The 12-driver Playoff field will be locked in after the Sept. 16 race at Bristol. The Xfinity Playoffs will feature three-race sets at Texas, Talladega, and Charlotte, and Las Vegas, Homestead, and Martinsville. The field will be trimmed by points or victories from 12 to eight survivors after Charlotte and from eight to four after Martinsville.
The championship race among the four finalists will be at Avondale on Nov. 4. Just as with Cup, the champion will be the best finisher among those final four, regardless of where they finish within the entire field.
Zane Smith has been the driver to beat all season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
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Truck Series Picture
Eight drivers have clinched spots in the Camping World Truck Series playoffs. Zane Smith (three victories) is the only eligible multi-time winner, and is easily in with one-timers John Hunter Nemechek, Ben Rhodes, Chandler Smith, and Stewart Friesen. Based on points Ty Majeski, Carson Hocevar, and Christian Eckes also are in, although they’re also on that damnable “bubble.”
Camping World Truck Series Winners
Five spots remain to be locked in, Pocono is final race before Playoffs
- Zane Smith (3)
- John Hunter Nemecheck (1)
- Ben Rhodes (1)
- Chandler Smith (1)
- Stewart Friesen (1)
Pocono will the Playoff field since it’s the 16th and last of the CWTS’s 23 regular-season races. The seven-race championship series goes to Brownsburg, Ind., next weekend, then Richmond, and Kansas City. Those races will trim the field from 10 contenders to eight. The second round at Bristol, Talladega, and Homestead will trim it from eight to four.
The championship race is Nov. 4 in Arizona. Just like with Cup and Xfinity, the best finishing truck driver among the four finalists is the champion.