What's Three-Foot Tall and Weighs Sixty Eight Pounds?
Every NASCAR race fan around the globe should know the answer.. it's the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup trophy. Standing just over a yardstick high and weighing in at 68 pounds, this year's trophy is awaiting the winner of the "Playoffs", NASCAR's thrilling shootout for the final ten rounds of the racing calendar. Sixteen drivers were selected at the end of the 26-event regular Cup season to compete for top honors in the world's most prestigious stock car racing series. Since no other sanctioning body races a 40-car field for up to 600 miles over a five hour stretch, NASCAR instituted a stage-system for this year's championship where drivers compete for playoff points as well as the overall win at each event. Still, nothing beats winning a race outright, as drivers can qualify directly into the Playoffs by standing on top of the podium.
Thirteen drivers took advantage of the direct route into the playoffs by winning at least one NASCAR Cup event. Those posting wins included Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Ryan Blaney, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, and Austin Dillon. The remaining three Playoff spots were determined by regular season points. Chase Elliott came ever so close to winning at several races throughout the year but made the Playoffs through consistent finishes ranking tenth place in the points. Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray claimed the final two positions having finished fifteenth and sixteenth, respectively.
In some ways, it won't seem fair if the championship eludes the No. 78 Furniture Row team based out of Denver CO. It has looked like their championship all season with a very fast Martin Truex, Jr. behind the wheel. The ten playoff races are divided into 3 groups of 3 races where the bottom four drivers are eliminated after the third race in each group. Then, the top four drivers will compete for the 2017 NASCAR Championship at Homestead Speedway in Miami. Truex got the ball rolling this past Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway with a win in the first race of the Round of 16. Drivers and teams now make their way east to New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon for the ISM Connect 300 Sunday, Sept 24. With nine events remaining, stay tuned to see who hoists the Cup that can hold over 4.5 gallons of a driver's favorite brew.