The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup field is set!
The 2019 playoff field includes: Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott, Kurt Busch, Alex Bowman, Erik Jones, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, William Byron, Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman.
Jimmie Johnson was unable to secure a spot after a wreck on Lap 105. His 35th-place finish dropped him to 18th in the standings, while Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman (who were also competing to get into the playoffs on points) managed a fifth and eighth-place finish.
It would’ve been Johnson’s 17th consecutive playoff berth had he advanced.
“Sure, we wanted to continue on, but the goal is to win a race,” Johnson said. “This team is getting stronger each and every week and (crew chief) Cliff Daniels is doing an amazing job of leading this group and we’re ready to roll. We’ll dust ourselves off and go to Vegas and try to get a trophy.”
Newman is no stranger to making the playoffs. As a matter of fact, his consistency throughout the year usually provides him advancement without a win. He’s that one driver who usually makes it and the fans are left wondering how and sometimes he picks it up enough during the playoffs to make finish second in the standings with no victory at all.
“We’re continuing to build (the 6 team) and today was another stepping stone,” Newman said. “We’re focused on ourselves and we’ve got three races to prove that this is no spoof. We finished eighth today and I saw a lot of guys run out of talent, losing control of their car all by themselves. We’ve just got to take these cars to the best of our ability and roll on.”
Harvick was already in, but he also won at the Brickyard Sunday. His win shut the door for another driver to get in on a win.
Now that the field is set, there will be three races to determine which drivers make it to the Round of 12. A win isn’t the only way to make it, but it’s a driver's best shot. Las Vegas, Richmond and Charlotte complete the Round of 16.
It was also announced this week that Paul Menard will retire from full-time racing after 13 seasons in order to spend more time with his family.
Menard’s retirement allows driver Matt Dibenedetto a second chance. Dibenedetto, who previously announced he would not return to Leavine Family Racing next season, will replace Menard in the No. 21 Ford for Wood Brothers Racing. It was reported that Menard told the team about his retirement only three weeks ago and he immediately recommended Dibenedetto as his replacement.
The phone call inviting Dibenedetto to Wood Brothers was a “dream-come-true.”
“This is the best opportunity of my life and I think we can all build something great for years to come,” Dibenedetto said.
As always, this is the time of the season that the fun begins!
You can catch live racing from Las Vegas Motor Speedway Sunday at 6 p.m. on NBCSN.