O’Reilly Auto Parts 500



FORT WORTH, Texas (September 14, 2017)

Led by seven-time and defending series champion Jimmie Johnson, the 16-driver field has been set for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs that begin with Sunday's Tale of the Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.

The drivers that qualified for the 10-week, post-season run for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship following Saturday night's regular-season finale at Richmond are regular-season champion Martin Truex Jr. of Furniture Row; Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray of Chip Ganassi Racing; Chase Elliott, Kasey Kahne and Johnson of Hendrick Motorsports; Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth of Joe Gibbs Racing; Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch of Stewart-Haas Racing; Austin Dillon and Ryan Newman of Richard Childress Racing; Brad Keselowski of Penske Racing; Ricky Stenhouse Jr. of Roush Fenway Racing; and Ryan Blaney of the Wood Brothers. Thirteen of the drivers qualified for the playoffs by virtue of a victory during the 26-race regular season while McMurray, Elliott and Kenseth earned berths by their points position.

The 10-race format to determine the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion includes a stop at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, Nov. 5, for the AAA Texas 500 in the Round of 8. The Round of 8 - which also includes races at Martinsville (Oct. 29) and Phoenix (Nov. 12) - determines which four drivers will advance to the Championship 4 and contend for the series championship Sunday, Nov. 19, at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Here are "5 Things You Need To Know" heading into the NASCAR playoffs:

  1. "Eight Is Enough": Defending Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson is looking to make another indelible mark on the sport as he pursues a record eighth championship. Last year's crown moved him into a tie with two of the sport's icons - Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt - and one more would give him the record that many thought would be untouchable. Should he advance to the Round of 8 and be in dire need of a win, there is no better place for him than Texas Motor Speedway. Johnson holds the track Cup records for wins (7), top 5s (15), top 10s (21), laps led (1,041) and he also won the first race on the repaved and reconfigured 1.5-mile oval in April's O'Reilly Auto Parts 500.
  2. "Field Of Dreams": This year's playoff group is perhaps the most diverse since the 10-race playoff format began in 2004, ranging from former series champions to a rookie making the field. The group is highlighted by six former Cup series champions in Johnson, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski and Matt Kenseth. There also are three drivers with no series championships among them, but have combined for 67 wins in Denny Hamlin (31), Kasey Kahne (18) and Ryan Newman (18). There are two drivers that either matched or surpassed their career-best season for wins. Regular-season champion Martin Truex Jr. matched his career-best of four wins set a year ago while Kyle Larson's four victories easily topped his previous high of one last season. The field also includes two drivers - Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and rookie Ryan Blaney - that earned their first career wins this season to make the playoffs and another - Chase Elliott - still in search of his first career Cup victory as the playoffs begin.
  3. "Making A Point": Throughout the regular season, drivers earned "playoff points" to be used in the post-season to help them advance to the next round. Drivers earned points by winning Stage 1 or Stage 2 of a race (1 point for each), winning a race (5 points) and also for their regular-season finish (top-10 finishers starting with 15 points for regular-season champ and then 10-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1). Championship-contending drivers can accumulate additional playoff points during the playoffs via stage and race wins to help them advance to the Championship 4. So how do these points help a driver contending for the title? The points are added to that driver's reset points total at the start of every post-season round until they are eliminated, giving them a points edge on their fellow contenders. The playoff points do not carry over into the Championship 4 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where they race all even and the top finisher is crowned the champion.
  4. "Monster Of A Deal": With the departure of title sponsor Sprint and the arrival of Monster Energy this season, the Chase for the Sprint Cup post-season name and Sprint Cup trophy are retired. The new name for the post-season is simply the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. The trophy - officially named the "Monster Energy NASCAR Cup" - was designed by Jostens and is emblazoned with the outlines of all 23 Cup tracks, including Texas Motor Speedway. The machined aluminum cup, which stands over 37 inches tall and weighs 68 pounds, has a hand-formed series seal that sits below the Cup and the Monster Energy claw is embedded in the base of the trophy. The cup holds 600 ounces of liquid, the equivalent of 37 Monster Energy drinks ... or a lot of champagne for the new champ.
  5. "Playoff Fever": In addition to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, the NASCAR XFINITY Series and Camping World Truck Series utilize playoff formats to crown their respective champions. The XFINITY Series will have 12 drivers contending for the title over the course of three rounds, beginning Sept. 23 at Kentucky Speedway. The Camping World Truck Series will have eight drivers in contention over three rounds as well, also beginning Sept. 23 but at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Texas Motor Speedway will play host to a tripleheader playoff weekend with the O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 on Saturday, Nov. 4, being part of the Round of 8 for the XFINITY Series, the JAG Metals 350 Driving Hurricane Harvey Reliefon Friday, Nov. 3, being part of the Round of 6 for the Camping World Truck Series and, of course, the AAA Texas 500 being the middle race in the Round of 8 in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Tickets for the AAA Texas 500, O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 and JAG Metals 350 Driving Hurricane Harvey Relief playoff races are available by visiting www.texasmotorspeedway.comor by calling the speedway ticket office at 817.215.8500. With an adult ticket purchase, accompanying tickets for children 12 and under are $10 for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoff race and free for the XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series playoff races.

About the author

The Texas Motor Speedway Media Relations Department is located on the 6th floor of The Speedway Club outside of Turn 1 of the speedway. 

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