The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series has it’s regular season finale on Sunday at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway. With 14 of the 16 spots locked up seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson and teammate Alex Bowman are hoping that there are no surprise first time winners at the Brickyard.
Johnson sits 19 points ahead of Bowman. If either driver, or a driver who has already won this season were to go to victory lane then both would qualify for the NASCAR Playoffs which being in a week at Richmond International Raceway.
A first time winner could change all that. In fact barring even the idea that there could be a first time winner could make the Big Machines Vodka 400 at the Brickyard one of the worst watched races all season. Already the event is going up against the opening week of NFL games resulting in the race having a 2:20 pm ET green flag time to avoid kickoffs from the early set of games. Johnson and Bowman are safe on points meaning the only way either could miss the playoffs is a first time winner this season.
Drivers who have not one this year and could make the playoffs include Ricky Stenhouse, 2013 winner Ryan Newman, 2017 Indy winner Kasey Kahne, Ty Dillon, Bubba Wallace, William Byron, 2010 winner Jamie McMurray, 2011 winner Paul Menard, Daniel Suarez, Chris Buescher, David Ragan, Matt DiBenedetto, Michael McDowell and AJ Allmendinger.
Ten drivers have qualified for the playoffs with wins they include Kyle Busch (6), Kevin Harvick (7, 6 that count), Martin Truex (4), Clint Bowyer (2) and single race winners Joey Logano, Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott, Eric Jones and Daytona 500 winner Austin Dillon.
Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin and Aric Almirola have also scored enough points to be safe heading into the race at Indy.