The Backstretch Blog's Race Day: Toto, I don't think our team is in the Playoffs anymore


Cut day in the NASCAR Playoffs as the Cup series takes on the Kansas Speedway. If you are one of the 12 Playoff drivers, and your name is not Martin Truex, Jr. or Brad Keselowski, this race is everything to your championship hopes and dreams. If you don't take care of business, the yellow brick road to Homestead, finds a dead end at Kansas.

"It really is challenging," said Jimmie Johnson, who currently sits in 8th in the playoff standings, seven points ahead of 9th place Kyle Busch. "And then you think of this track and the speed that the (Joe) Gibbs (Racing) cars have had, this has been a great track for Matt (Kenseth) and Kyle (Busch) both. I could go out there and put myself in a nice position in the points and maintain this eighth-place on the bubble and Matt or Kyle wins and shifts that whole thing down. So, it's going to be a challenging weekend. We need to hit the track with the mindset of winning largely because of the two, speaking of Matt and Kyle, those guys are both capable of winning here and shifting the points all around."

Jimmie is one of six drivers whose road to round 3 of the Playoffs is completely in his own hands. But for the four drivers currently outside of the top eight in points, winning is the best way to advance to the next round.

But even that could be disrupted if a non-playoff driver or one of the two playoff drivers wins a win, find victory lane today at Kansas.

"If you look at Martin and Brad, they got their wins the first two weeks, so then this week doesn't really matter. It still does," sai Matt Kenseth. "You want to collect bonus points, all them things, Playoffs points, whatever. But each race is equally as important. I mean, they always, I guess, feel more important the way everybody looks at them when it's actually a cutoff race because we don't have next week if you don't perform well in this race. You do, but not live trying to run for a championship. So to me, it's just another weekend, another opportunity to go out and try to win, try to get this ship turned around a little bit."

Seven playoff drivers have wins at Kansas, including Truex, who won in the spring. He once again looks like the car to beat (doesn't he always?). He will lead the field to green from the pole.

"It's pretty big, the biggest one at this point in time so that's what matters you know," said Truex. "We race one week at a time and try to do the best we can. Obviously we needed this, this was a big one tonight with next week's pit selection, so just really proud of everybody. Great execution all day making right adjustments and right calls in qualifying there. Just had to step it up there, I'm shaking a little bit after that one it was pretty wild."

Joining him on the front row, is another former Kansas winner Kevin Harvick. Kenseth, Denny Hamlin and Daniel Suarez make up the rest of the top five starters. Tennessee native Trevor Bayne will start 28th.

"I'm really looking forward to getting to Kansas this weekend," said Bayne. "We had a top-10 finish here in the spring and we have a lot of momentum on our side right now coming off of our top-three finish last weekend in Talladega. Hopefully we can unload with the same speed we had here earlier this year."

The green flag is set to drop on the Hollywood Casino 400 at 3:07pm. You can watch today's race on NBCSN.

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