NASCAR Playoff Bubble Boils Over Following Bojangles’ Southern 500 At Darlingtonby Hunter Thomas September 2, 2019 0 comments
DARLINGTON, S.C. – The NASCAR Playoff bubble has boiled over as four drivers will enter the Regular Season finale at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a chance to make the cut after a wild night at Darlington Raceway.
Granted, a victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway from a winless driver inside the top-20 will catapult them inside the top-16, Clint Bowyer, Daniel Suarez, Ryan Newman and Jimmie Johnson are on the bubble to make the NASCAR Playoffs based on points.
Sitting 15th in the standings is Stewart-Haas Racing’s Clint Bowyer. He had quite an impressive night at Darlington Raceway, finishing sixth after starting the 367-lap race in the 13th position. The finish was his 11th top-10 of the season and his best-ever finish at the track, Too Tough To Tame. Bowyer now has an eight-point lead over the final cutoff spot.
“We put ourselves back in position, but, kid you not, yes, I want to make the Playoffs, but I want to make the Playoffs to get past the first round and to hit that thing in stride and race to our capabilities,” Bowyer said. “Tonight was our capability. Single-digit finishes we’re capable of rattling off and this was a good shot in the arm, a momentum boost for our race team going into that last race in Indy, and if we can do that again is what I’m looking for because, again, you always have to be looking down the road.”
Bowyer finished fifth at Indianapolis last year, but his average finish is only 14.2 at the track.
Daniel Suarez and Ryan Newman who are now tied points wise for the 16th and final Playoff transfer position battled each other hard at Darlington Raceway during the Bojangles’ Southern 500. On lap 142 while racing for position, Newman spun through Turn 2 with Suarez right on his back bumper. The two drivers never made contact, but depending on who you ask, the dirty air may have made a difference in the outcome of the accident.
“I have to watch the replay,” Newman said. “They said he hit me, but I don’t know. He had me jacked up sideways going into the corner, so do I owe him? Probably a little something.”
After the race, Suarez said, “That’s a racing thing. I didn’t touch him. As a driver it’s very, very easy to know that the guy behind you is very, very close and to feel that air, but he’s experienced to know. Once he sees the race he’s going to realize that we didn’t touch. It was everything aero and just hard racing, that’s it.”
Suarez finished 11th in his Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Haas Automation Ford, while Newman had to settle for a disappointing 23rd place finish in the Roush Fenway Racing No. 6 Oscar Mayer/Velveeta Ford.
In his two starts at Indianapolis, Suarez has finished seventh and 18th. Newman’s previous two finishes have been third and 10th at Indy, neither being with Roush Fenway Racing.
Trailing Suarez and Newman by 18 points is seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion, Jimmie Johnson who finished 16th at Darlington after sustaining damage from a lap 276, six-car crash when Daniel Hemric blew a tire in Turn 4. While Johnson is trailing, he certainly knows how to get around Indianapolis. He has four wins at the track, but over the past two seasons, he hasn’t faired well there at all, finishing 27th and 16th.
“Yeah, I mean we are running out of days and if we miss it, it’s just going to be by a few I believe,” Johnson said. “If I look back over the first half of the season, I see a lot of races where we gave away a few points. So, it’s kind of unfair to put all the pressure on one race in Indy. But it is what it is and we are going to go there to win a race. I felt like we could have been a top-three or four car and really help ourselves, but it is what it is. At least my car looked cool. I’m very happy to have that throwback, with Ally, Chevrolet and all the support from my family and friends. We’ll go to Indy and see what happens.”
The final race of the Regular Season will be held at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, September 8. Live coverage of the Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard will broadcast on NBC at 2 p.m. ET.