NASCAR playoff clinching scenarios for Daytona: How Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, others can make postseason

The good news for Jimmie Johnson is the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion enters the regular-season finale of his final full-time year just four points out of the 16th and final playoff spot. The bad news is he has very little control over his ability to reach the postseason and continue his bid for a record eighth Cup Series championship.

The NASCAR playoff clinching scenarios for Saturday night’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway are such that Johnson needs help to secure a playoff spot on points. Of course, a win would get him into the playoffs, but this year marks the first time NASCAR has ended its regular season at a superspeedway like Daytona, where pack racing will make the result a crap shoot.

“We did the best that we could (last week), had two respectable results,” Johnson said after finishing seventh and third in the pair of Dover races. “Closed the gap, but now it’s kind of in luck’s hands or in fate’s hands down in Daytona.”

Going into the Daytona race, 13 drivers don’t have to worry about luck or fate as it relates to their ability to make the NASCAR playoffs. A total of 10 drivers have clinched postseason berths with victories in 2020, and three more (Aric Almirola, Kyle Busch and Kurt Busch) have already clinched on points standings.

Below is the list of drivers who have safely clinched playoff spots heading into the regular-season finale at Daytona.

That leaves 18 drivers who are entering the Daytona night race with one more chance to make the playoffs. Only five of those drivers, though, have scenarios that would see them reach the postseason on points alone. Everybody else needs a win.

Below are all of the clinching scenarios at Daytona for the drivers who have not yet made the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.

NASCAR playoff clinching scenarios for Daytona

There are five drivers who can clinch a playoff spot based on points after the Daytona race — Clint Bowyer, Matt DiBenedetto, William Byron, Jimmie Johnson and Erik Jones. Below is a look at where they are on the playoff bubble entering Saturday night’s race.

If there is a new winner at Daytona, the drivers below could clinch a playoff spot by being ahead of the sixth winless driver in the points standings.

If there is a repeat winner at Daytona, the list of drivers who would have chances to clinch a playoff spot on points grows by one with Erik Jones. The following drivers in that case could clinch a playoff spot by being ahead of the seventh winless driver in the standings. (They also would clinch if there were a new winner among Aric Almirola, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Bowyer, DiBenedetto or Byron and being ahead of the sixth winless driver in the standings.)

A reminder of how NASCAR awards points: Each finishing spot in the field earns points, from 40 points to the driver who wins to one point for the driver who finishes 40th. Drivers also can earn points if they finish in the top 10 of Stages 1 and 2. The winner of each of the first to stages gets 10 points, all the way down to the 10th-place finisher earning one point.

A winning NASCAR Cup Series driver in the regular season is guaranteed a playoff spot as long as he is in the top 30 in the points standings (and as long as no more than 16 drivers have won races in a given season).

Which means there are 18 drivers in Saturday night’s field who are on the outside looking into the playoffs but could earn a spot with a win at Daytona.

Drivers who can clinch playoffs with a win at Daytona:

(* – Suarez with a win at Daytona would need some help to get into the top 30 in points.)

In the current NASCAR playoff format, which was first used in 2014, only one driver who entered the regular-season finale outside of the top 16 (kind of) has earned a playoff spot. Ryan Newman was tied with Daniel Suarez for 16th heading into last year’s regular-season finale at Indianapolis and finished ahead of Suarez to take the spot.

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