Win or bust for Cup Series drivers on the bubble

This weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway will mark the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regular-season finale for the second consecutive year. Last year we had to wait until the last race to determine the regular-season champion. But Sunday, in the wee hours of the morning at Darlington Raceway, Kyle Busch claimed that title after his third-place finish in the Bojangles’ Southern 500.

It came as no surprise as Busch has been on fire this year, racking up four wins, 13 top fives and 21 top-10 finishes. Busch is now locked into the Playoffs and gained 15 bonus points to carry into the 10-race playoff series that begins Sept. 15 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Other drivers, however, are fighting possible elimination from competing for the championship, including seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson.

Here are the playoff-clinching scenarios for this weekend’s race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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  1. Clint Bowyer – Bowyer currently sits 15th in the playoff points standings with a little bit of a buffer above the cut line. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver will likely need a win to compete for the championship but also can clinch if he leaves Indy with 48 points and a new winner is seen. Bowyer can also clinch with 46 points should there be a repeat winner or a win by Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, William Byron or Aric Almirola. However, Indy has been a tricky track for the Kansas native. He has zero wins, three top fives and four top-10 finishes with 43 laps led and an average finish of 14.2, with one DNF in 2017. The pressure will be on Bowyer and his No. 14 team to excel this weekend.

  2. Daniel Suarez – Like Bowyer, Suarez would also clinch with a win and with a repeat winner. It’s been a tough season for Suarez and the No. 41 team who has only earned three top fives and nine top-10 finishes. Suarez will need a lot of help this weekend as he only has one top-10 finish at Indy that came in the 2017 race. Suarez sits 16th on the bubble in a tie with Ryan Newman.

  3. Ryan Newman – Newman is tied with Suarez and sits 17th in the standings. The Roush Fenway Racing driver can get lucky by pointing himself way into the Playoffs by being tied with Suarez. Newman needs 54 points to clinch and help from Suarez. He has won at Indy, but that was in 2013 when Newman started first and finished first. Since then Newman has finishes of 11th twice, 31st, third and 10th.

  4. Jimmie Johnson – It’s been a rough season and summer stretch for the No. 48 Ally Racing team. Other than the exhibition win at Daytona, Johnson has not scored a win and has only amassed three top fives and eight top-10 finishes in 2019. The frustrating finishes this season have placed Johnson below the cut line in 18th. The seven-time champion likely needs a win at this point to lock himself into the Playoffs.

    For anyone else including Paul Menard, Chris Buescher, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Matt DiBenedetto, among all other drivers inside the top 30, it’s win or go home as the points difference is too much to make up even if they win the stages and lead the most laps.

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