At Least One Of These Big-Name Drivers Won’t Qualify For NASCAR Playoffs

With 10 races left in 2017 season, it’s pretty clear who will make the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. The reality of who won’t qualify for the postseason, though, also is setting in.

Barring colossal meltdowns from drivers who already have victories this year, some of NASCAR’s biggest names are going to miss out on the fun this fall. Only 16 drivers can make the playoffs, and 10 of those spots have been filled by race winners. If less than 16 drivers win a race, the remaining spots are filled by the drivers with the most points. Here are the drivers who already are locked into the playoffs:

-Jimmie Johnson (three wins)
-Martin Truex Jr. (two wins)
-Kyle Larson (two wins)
-Brad Keselowski (two wins)
-Ryan Newman (one win)
-Austin Dillon (one win)
-Ryan Blaney (one win)
-Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (one win)
-Kurt Busch (one win)
-Kevin Harvick (one win)

While it’s exciting to see some unfamiliar names qualifying for the postseason, it’s somewhat bittersweet, as some of the sport’s greatest drivers simply aren’t going to make the cut. Furthermore, if, say, one of NASCAR’s rookie drivers claim their first victory, the pool of open spots will shrink even further.

Here are some notable drivers who are vying for the six remaining playoff spots:

Kyle Busch

NASCAR driver Kyle Busch

Photo via Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY Sports Images

Currently fourth in the Cup standings, Busch would be in the playoffs if the season ended today. Still, backing into the postseason and going winless all year surely wouldn’t satisfy No. 18 team, as Busch remains one of the best drivers in the sport.

Chase Elliott

NASCAR driver Chase Elliott

Photo via Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY Sports Images

Elliott also would make the postseason if it started this weekend, as he’s currently sixth in the Cup standings. His talent is obvious, but the 21-year-old driver still is in search of his first win. That didn’t stop Hendrick Motorsports from recently signing him to a four-year extension, though.

Jamie McMurray

NASCAR driver Jamie McMurray

Photo via Matthew O’Haren/USA TODAY Sports Images

McMurray is having one of his best seasons, as he’s currently eighth in the Cup standings. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver isn’t one the sport’s biggest names, but he’s always in the postseason mix, and really has looked like a playoff-worthy driver all year. Still, he’d do himself a huge favor by capturing his first win of the season.

Denny Hamlin

NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin

Photo via Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY Sports Images

Hamlin’s surged lately, climbing all the way to ninth in the Cup standings. Though, like the rest of the drivers on this list, he still hasn’t entered victory lane in 2017. He’s trending in the right direction, but it still might not be enough to get him into the playoffs.

Joey Logano

NASCAR driver Joey Logano

Photo via Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY Sports Images

Here’s where things get weird. Logano has a win this season, but after a rules violation was discovered during the post-race breakdown, the victory was labeled “encumbered,” meaning it won’t count toward the playoffs. At 10th in the Cup standings, Logano still qualifies for the postseason, but he’d be well-served to win another race.

Clint Bowyer

NASCAR driver Clint Bowyer

Photo via Matthew O’Haren/USA TODAY Sports Images

As it stands right now, Bowyer, who sits 11th in the Cup standings, qualifies for the final spot in the playoffs. It would be a real shame if he missed the postseason, as the veteran driver truly has had a resurgent season.

Matt Kenseth

NASCAR driver Matt Kenseth

Photo via Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY Sports Images

Kenseth, one of the better drivers in the sport, currently is on the outside looking into the NASCAR playoffs. He’s 12th in the Cup standings, which is respectable, but the fact he doesn’t have a victory to this point is pretty surprising.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Photo via Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY Sports Images

Just about everyone wants to see Earnhardt make the playoffs in his final season, but the odds are against him at this point. He’s miles behind Bowyer in points, and has struggled for much of the 2017 season. At this point, Earnhardt needs to win a race if he wants to be in the postseason.

Danica Patrick

NASCAR driver Danica Patrick

Photo via Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY Sports Images

This isn’t much of a surprise, as Patrick has yet to make the playoffs during her NASCAR career. She virtually has no shot of making the postseason on points given that she’s 28th in the Cup standings. If she wants to make the cut, she’ll need to do something she’s never done in NASCAR: take a checkered flag.

Thumbnail photo via Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY Sports Images

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