Playoff Pulse: Analyzing the field after Las Vegas


Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway shook up the standings and confirmed the first of the drivers who are slated to compete in the Cup Series championship at Phoenix Raceway in November.

WINNER

Joey Logano. It came down to the final five laps after the No. 22 team erased a late pit-road miscue with a masterful strategy call by crew chief Paul Wolfe. Logano rocketed past Ross Chastain in the closing laps, securing the race win and punching his ticket to the Championship 4 in Phoenix. The win was Logano’s 30th in his Cup Series career and third of the 2022 season. Logano is looking to add to his 2018 series title.

RELATED: Official results | Photos from Las Vegas

WHO’S HOT?

Ross Chastain. If it wasn’t for a superhuman effort by Logano, Sunday’s race at Las Vegas was Chastain’s. Chastain led a race-high 68 laps on the afternoon before his lead shrunk and was surrendered in the closing laps. But time and time again, Chastain and the No. 1 team proved that they have the speed to win. Aside from the lone playoff road course in Charlotte, Chastain has yet to finish outside the top 13 since the Round of 16 opener at Darlington Raceway. If the team can keep up this pace, it will certainly be one of the title contenders in Phoenix.

WHO’S NOT?

Christopher Bell. Bell was the unfortunate recipient of contact from Kyle Larson after Bubba Wallace sent the No. 5 driver sliding into the wall in Stage 2. After his miraculous walk-off win at the Charlotte Roval, Bell once again finds himself sitting far below the elimination line with just two races remaining before the Championship 4. Bell was the only playoff driver to record a DNF in Vegas and slips to last in the playoff standings. Fortunately for the No. 20 team, the group has two chances to make magic happen and have shown race-winning speed throughout the playoffs.

BUBBLE WATCH

Rank Driver Cutoff
1. Joey Logano WIN
2. Ross Chastain +18
3. Chase Elliott +17
4. Denny Hamlin +6
——– ELIMINATION LINE ———-
5. William Byron -6
6. Chase Briscoe -9
7. Ryan Blaney -11
8. Christopher Bell -23

NEXT RACE

The NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs continue at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday with the Dixie Vodka 400 at 2:30 p.m. ET (NBC, NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). After serving as the site of the Cup Series Championship for years before the series shifted to Phoenix, the highly favored Miami track returns to the playoffs.

WHO IT FAVORS

Denny Hamlin. Hamlin has earned an incredible five Busch Light Pole Awards at Homestead, translating into one win (2020) and three top-10 finishes. In total, the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing driver has a pair of wins and a 10.0 average finish, only trailing Chase Elliott among remaining title contenders. At the track, he has the third most laps led all-time and led a career-best 137 in his 2020 victory. Looking to secure his first Cup Series championship, this track lines up well for Hamlin to strengthen his push to Phoenix.

WHO IT HURTS

Ryan Blaney. Blaney is putting together his strongest championship bid yet, but to advance he will need to overcome his historic struggles at Homestead. In seven starts at the Miami track, Blaney has just one top 10 and three finishes of 26th or worse, including 29th place in 2021. His Final Stage incident at Las Vegas puts even more pressure on the team to buck this trend and put together one of their best performances here. His 18.9 average finish at Homestead-Miami ranks last among remaining playoff drivers with four starts or more.