Published On: Sun, Aug 26th, 2018

NASCAR: Painting the Playoff Picture

Painting the Playoff Picture.With two regular season races remaining to set the 16-driver Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Playoff field, four more drivers assured themselves a postseason berth following last Saturday night’s Bristol Motor Speedway night race.

Race winner Kurt Busch guaranteed his spot in the 16. Joining him by virtue of points are Team Penske drivers Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski along with Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson. That leaves the four drivers ranked 13th-16tt – Denny Hamlin, Aric Almirola, Jimmie Johnson and Alex Bowman – still to secure their championship berths.

As it did for Kurt Busch, a victory in the Sept. 2 Bojangles Southern 500 (6 p.m., NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) would, of course, ease any Playoff tension. Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, is the defending winner at the Monster Energy Series’ next venue, Darlington Raceway. He has two victories at the historic track (2010), three runner-up finishes and is on a streak of three consecutive top-five finishes.

Johnson is the only other member of that foursome still looking to lock a Playoff position who has won at Darlington previously. He’s won three times, actually – including a sweep of the 2004 season – when the series raced at the track twice annually – and then again in 2012. The driver of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet is looking for his first top-10 there since 2014, however.

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