Playoffs pulse: Stacking the field after Chicago

RELATED: Full race results | Playoffs standings

After the first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs race, here’s a brief look at the playoffs picture. There are two races remaining in the Round of 16 before the field is whittled to 12, with four drivers eliminated from the postseason following Dover (Oct. 1).

Winner

Martin Truex Jr. won on Sept. 17 at Chicagoland Speedway, clinching a spot in the second round of the playoffs. The win also gives him five playoff points to add to his total, which now sits at 58.

Who’s hot

Chase Elliott. Elliott’s 42 laps led were his most since Phoenix, the fourth race of the season, and he ran in the top five with the big dogs all day. However, his second-place finish was ruled encumbered for a post-race inspection violation, costing the No. 24 team the playoff point for a stage win. The team also loses 15 driver points. | More on L1 penalty for No. 24

Kevin Harvick. Harvick led four times for 59 laps, the third-most in the race and the most for the No. 4 team since leading 77 at Texas in April. His short-run speed and restart launch both were impressive, as was his third-place finish.

Who’s not

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Stenhouse Jr.’s first race as a playoffs driver couldn’t have gone worse early. An ill-handling condition saw his No. 17 Ford get into the wall early in Stage 1, an issue compounded when Stenhouse Jr. was issued a commitment line violation when he came to pit road for service. It put Stenhouse two laps down and he never recovered, finishing 25th.

Ryan Newman. Contact with Jamie McMurray didn’t help matters, but Newman’s No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet was off all day. His 23rd-place showing drops him to the bottom of the Playoffs Grid.

PHOTOS: All the best images from Chicago

BUBBLE WATCH

Rank Driver Points to cutoff
9. Matt Kenseth +13
10. Ryan Blaney +8
11. Jamie McMurray +5
12. Austin Dillon 0
————— CUT-OFF LINE —————
13. Kurt Busch 0
14. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -4
15. Kasey Kahne -5
16. Ryan Newman -7

Next race

The Monster Energy Series travels to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for a Sunday afternoon race on Sept. 24 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Who it favors

Wins: Kurt Busch (3), Denny Hamlin (3), Jimmie Johnson (3), Matt Kenseth (3), Ryan Newman (3)
Average Finish: Denny Hamlin (10.0), Brad Keselowski (10.2), Jimmie Johnson (11.1), Kyle Larson (11.7)
Driver Rating: Denny Hamlin (104.0), Jimmie Johnson (100.8), Kyle Busch (98.8), Brad Keselowski (98.7), Kevin Harvick (98.0)

Who it hurts

Fewest Top-10s: Ryan Blaney (0), Chase Elliott (0), Austin Dillon (1)
Worst Average Finish: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (20.4), Jamie McMurray (19.8), Chase Elliott (19.3)
Worst Driver Rating: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (69.0), Austin Dillon (71.1), Jamie McMurray (73.1)