How A.J. Allmendinger's win still affects the playoffs

A.J. Allmendinger doesn’t compete for points in the NASCAR Cup Series, but his win in Sunday’s race still affected the playoff picture.

A.J. Allmendinger delivered Kaulig Racing their first ever NASCAR Cup Series victory in Sunday’s inaugural race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway following overtime drama between erstwhile race leader Denny Hamlin and second place runner Chase Briscoe.

The win was the second of Allmendinger’s career and the first since he won at Watkins Glen International back in 2014. The driver of the #16 Matt Kaulig-owned Chevrolet became the 14th different winner through 24 races this season.

His win did not have direct playoff implications, as he competes full-time in the Xfinity Series, not the Cup Series, and is therefore not in the running to win this year’s Cup Series championship.

However, his win still affected the playoff picture.

Because of his win, coupled with the fact that there are two races remaining in the regular season, there can now be no more than 15 different playoff eligible winners in the regular season. As a result, all winners (other than Allmendinger) are now officially locked into the playoffs.

This is specifically big for Front Row Motorsports’ Michael McDowell and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Aric Almirola, who still technically had a chance to not make the playoffs — even with their wins at Daytona International Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway, respectively — since a 16-winner scenario could have produced 17 playoff eligible drivers.

This would have been the case if there had been 16 winners, plus a winless Hamlin winning the regular season championship. The reason why this would have been the case is the fact that the regular season champion is guaranteed a playoff berth whether he wins a race or not.

In that case, the lowest single-race winner in the point standings would have failed to qualify for the four-round, 10-race postseason.

But thanks to Allmendinger’s win, this is out of the question.

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