Three playoff races, three race winners who weren’t playoff drivers. Of all the insane things that have happened in the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season, this latest development takes the proverbial cake. Especially when you consider that historically, drivers outside of the playoffs almost never go to Victory Lane in the playoffs. Yet it’s happened three times this season – in all three playoff races contested so far.
Will Sunday’s 500-mile race at Texas produce yet another winner who isn’t in the playoffs? Given that the playoff field has been reduced from 16 to 12 drivers, this possibility is certainly heightened. And not only has the field been reduced, but at least three of the four drivers eliminated from championship contention last weekend at Bristol – Tyler Reddick, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch – are all capable of going to Victory Lane just about any race weekend.
So is 2017 Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr., who missed the playoffs by just three points and is a shocking 0-for-29 this season. Truex is a perennial championship contender, and the fact that he hasn’t won a race this year is nothing less than astonishing. Equally shocking is this stat: Truex is 0-for-32 in Cup Series races at Texas. However, he’s finished in the top 10 in more than half of his outings in the Lone Star State and he came home second at Texas in 2020. But whether it’s Truex or someone else, a non-playoff driver going to Victory Lane this weekend is a real possibility. The last three races prove it beyond a shadow of any doubt.