The NASCAR Cup Series takes on Michigan International Speedway on Sunday, Aug. 22. There are only two spots remaining in the playoffs, and nearly every driver in the top 30 has to win to clinch. Kevin Harvick is not among this group, and he can actually lock up his spot in the playoffs without taking the checkered flag.
NASCAR’s media arm released a list of clinching scenarios that describe how certain drivers can set themselves up for a playoff run at the two-mile oval. For Harvick, he just needs to finish 56 points ahead of the third winless driver. Austin Dillon currently fills this role while sitting 95 points behind Harvick.
Finishing ahead of Dillon and Reddick is one piece of the puzzle, but Harvick will also need some help. He will need a repeat winner at Michigan or one that is not eligible for the playoffs, a la AJ Allmendinger. The Kaulig Racing driver won the road course race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway but was not eligible for the Cup playoffs due to being a full-time Xfinity Series driver. When Allmendinger raced his way to Victory Lane, he actually locked Denny Hamlin into the playoffs.
Several Other Drivers Remain Within Reach of the Playoffs
Harvick has the best opportunity to reach the playoffs out of the winless Cup Series drivers, but he is not the only one that can take control of the situation. There are several others that can clinch with a win on Aug. 22.
According to the NASCAR standings, Tyler Reddick, Dillon, Matt DiBenedetto, Chris Buescher, Ross Chastain, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Bubba Wallace, Chase Briscoe, Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones, Ryan Newman, Ryan Preece, Cole Custer, Corey LaJoie, and Anthony Alfredo can also all secure a spot in the playoffs with a win. Though LaJoie will not have the opportunity at Michigan. He will miss the race while remaining in mandatory quarantine due to COVID-19 protocols.
Of these drivers, Reddick is currently in the safest position. He remains above the cut line with 28 points to the positive. However, any other driver on the aforementioned list can knock him below the cut line with a win at Michigan. Harvick, on the other hand, would move into the final spot in the playoffs.
Kyle Larson Has His Own Clinching Scenario at Michigan
The playoff drivers fighting for the win and a spot in the playoffs will draw considerable attention during the race at Michigan International Speedway, but there is another driver that will be on another mission. Kyle Larson, the current points leader, can officially lock up the regular-season championship at the two-mile oval.
The driver of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro currently has a 22-point lead over Hamlin in the standings. In order to clinch the regular-season championship, he will need to finish the weekend 61 points ahead of his peer.
Adding another 40 points to the total will not be a simple task for Larson. He would need to finish in the top five and have Hamlin well outside of the top 20. This scenario is entirely possible, but the driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry is one of the best drivers in the series at Michigan. Hamlin has won twice in 30 starts at the track, but he has been the runner-up in two of the last three races.
Larson does have an opportunity to clinch the championship at Michigan, but history indicates that he will not do so. Hamlin will likely turn in another strong performance and push the battle one more week, forcing the two drivers to face off in the regular-season finale at Daytona International Speedway on Aug. 28.