Here are five drivers to watch in the next five races before the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series begins their playoffs.
The NASCAR Cup Series is headed to Watkins Glen International for the first of the final five races before the NASCAR playoffs begin.
All five of the five drivers from the last edition of who to watch finished inside the top-5 at Pocono Raceway.
Now as the series heads to the final road course race of the season, let’s take a look at the drivers outside the playoffs who could win their way in.
Which drivers outside the top-16 in the standings have the best chance to make the NASCAR playoffs? Can A.J. Allmendinger win again at Watkins Glen? Will Ricky Stenhouse Jr. or Daniel Suarez pick up a win before the first playoff race in Las Vegas?
Here are five drivers that could win and make the NASCAR playoffs in the next five races .
Watkins Glen International – A.J. Allmendinger
A.J. Allmendinger’s best chance to make the NASCAR playoffs is at Watkins Glen, where he has won before.
Allmendinger visited victory lane at Watkins Glen in 2014 and in his nine career starts at The Glen, he has six top-10 finishes. He’s led 58 laps in his career at Watkins Glen and has an average finish of 9.3
Allmendinger currently sits 23rd in points, so if he wants to make the NASCAR playoffs, he will have to win his way in.
Michigan International Speedway – Paul Menard
Paul Menard sits 18th in the point standings, two spots outside of the NASCAR playoffs. Despite being just two positions back, Menard will need to rely on a win to get in.
In his last ten races at Michigan International Speedway, Menard has four top-5 and five top-10 finishes. At Michigan in June, Menard drove the Wood Brothers Racing iconic #21 car to a fifth place finish.
If Menard can’t get it done at Michigan International Speedway, he might be able to pull of a surprise at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the sight of his only career victory.
Bristol Motor Speedway – Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
It’s no secret Ricky Stenhouse Jr. enjoys racing at Bristol Motor Speedway. In his last ten races at Bristol, Stenhouse Jr. has four top-five and six top-10 finishes.
Despite never leading a lap at Bristol, his average finish in those ten races is 9.6. At the Bristol race in April earlier this year, Stenhouse Jr. finished fourth.
Stenhouse Jr. made the NASCAR playoffs last year thanks to his two victories at Talladega Superspeedway and Daytona International Speedway.
Stenhouse Jr. sits just one spot out of the NASCAR playoffs but unless the drivers ahead of him stumble, he will need a win to get in.
Darlington Raceway – Ryan Newman
Ryan Newman has seven top-10 finishes in his last ten races at Darlington Raceway. That’s fourth best among active drivers.
Newman made the playoffs last year after picking up a surprise win at Phoenix (ISM Raceway) but currently sits 19th in the point standings.
Newman has a flair for the dramatic, picking up wins when it’s least expected. He will have to do just that to make the NASCAR playoffs this year.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway – Daniel Suarez
Daniel Suarez is in search of his first career NASCAR Cup Series win. He finished seventh in last year’s race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a race which turned out to be a race for survival.
Suarez is coming off his career best second place finish at Pocono Raceway, a track with similar characteristics to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
It would be an unbelievable story for Suarez and NASCAR if he could win his first race and make the NASCAR playoffs in the last race of the regular season.
Follow Matt on Twitter @mattlovisa.