RICHMOND, Va. — The field of 16 drivers who will vie for the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship was finalized Saturday night after an overtime-extended 404-lap regular season finale at Richmond Raceway.
While Kyle Larson won the Federated Auto Parts 400 for his fifth career Cup victory and fourth of the season, regular season champion Martin Truex Jr. secured the No. 1 seed for NASCAR’s premier series playoffs, which begin Sept. 17 at Illinois’ Chicagoland Speedway.
Truex earned top honors entering the 10-race championship stretch by virtue of four wins — which came at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Kansas Speedway, Kentucky Speedway and Watkins Glen Int’l — and a series-high 53 playoff points banked during the regular season.
The No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team will kick off their quest for a championship with 2,053 points.
Larson’s victory Saturday night in Richmond elevated him above Kyle Busch in the reset playoff standings, with four race wins, three stage wins and 10 bonus points for finishing second in the regular-season giving him 2,033 points and the second seed for Chip Ganassi Racing.
Busch is seeded third going into Chicagoland, with two wins, 11 stage wins and a third-place finish in the regular season standings giving him 2,029 points going into the first round of the playoffs.
Appropriately, the top three in regular season points start the playoffs seeded first through third in the standings.
Two-time regular season winner Brad Keselowski (2,019) and seven-time and defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson (2,017) complete the top five in the seeding, with Johnson having three wins to his credit this season.
Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott make up the sixth through 10th seeds.
Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne, Austin Dillon, Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray complete the 16-driver playoff field, with the 11th (Newman) through 15th (Kenseth) seeds tied at 2,005 points apiece.
13 of the 14 regular season winners managed to qualify for the playoffs, with only Joey Logano missing the cut. Logano won at Richmond in April, but his victory was encumbered due to a rear suspension violation and as such, did not count towards playoff eligibility.
With 13 different winners inside the postseason grid, three open slots were available for winless drivers who were highest in regular season points through the first 26 races of the season.
Elliott, McMurray and Kenseth were the final three drivers to qualify for the playoffs by virtue of their points totals, ranking seventh, eighth and ninth in the regular season standings, respectively.
While Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports have the most cars from a single organization in the playoffs, with three entries each, Chip Ganassi Racing (two) was the only multi-car team to put all of its drivers into the championship hunt this year, doing so for the second-straight season.
Official Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Grid
- Martin Truex Jr.: 2,053 points
- Kyle Larson: 2,033 points
- Kyle Busch: 2,029 points
- Brad Keselowski: 2,019 points
- Jimmie Johnson: 2,017 points
- Kevin Harvick: 2,015 points
- Denny Hamlin: 2,013 points
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: 2,010 points
- Ryan Blaney: 2,008 points
- Chase Elliott: 2,006 points
- Ryan Newman: 2,005 points
- Kurt Busch: 2,005 points
- Kasey Kahne: 2,005 points
- Austin Dillon: 2,005 points
- Matt Kenseth: 2,005 points
- Jamie McMurray: 2,003 points
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Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 23-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
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