Stage points can make or break a driver’s chance to advance in the playoffs

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The 'NASCAR Race Hub' Crew break down how important it will be for drivers to earn stage points to keep themselves from being eliminated after Kansas.

- Each stage you could do-- what, plus 20 is what you feel comfortable with? I'm a righty and writing with my left hand. So Kevin, you know, sitting here going into Kansas? Here? I mean, where does the concern level start when you're looking at these points?

- Well, I think you have to be concerned if you don't have a win. Because you don't really know what's going to happen. It could be your time for a parts failure. It could be your time to have something go wrong. So I don't know that you're ever 100% safe. But I think if you're in those 20s, I think you're feeling a lot better than if you're in those single digits.

- So the margin for error is like this over there. And Chad, for you guys, 10 points separating the four drivers on the bubble. Your margin for error really squeezes down, right?

- Oh, it does tremendously. And that's where, you know, we were talking earlier about qualifying and the importance of that to get up there in the top 10. To give yourself an opportunity to get stage points is going to be so critical going into a racetrack like at Kansas.

Right now, you can get a 20 point swing and take yourself completely out of the factor, just by going up there and finishing first in the stages or not making it into the top 10 of the stages and finishing 11th or worse.

- I said this earlier. Stage points played a huge role in where we are here, based on what happened yesterday at Talladega. I mean, Keselowski won. So his 19 stage points really do not matter. But look at Ryan Blaney, only 9 over the cutline. Those 18 stage points could very well be the difference for him advancing or not. And the same thing for you guys, getting 10 stage points yesterday, Chad.

- It was a big deal, like I had mentioned earlier. That was our main focus-- was to try to accumulate some form of stage points early on in the race. Because we didn't expect to finish it, just because based off of history.

I think, you know, Kevin and those guys are in a pretty good spot right now because they've got people behind them. It's not only points that you have to pay attention to. But it's the cars behind you, and the amount of cars that have the opportunity to pass you to get to that cutline.

- Yeah, and I think when you talk about stage points from yesterday, I think you almost need to back up one more week. And you look at what happened at Charlotte. Because if you look at the two stages that we had at Charlotte, we won the first and the second stage at Charlotte. Well, there's 20 points. Without those 20 points, you're only 2 points up.

So it's-- the stage points are really what it's all about. And that, from a driver standpoint that-- and a team standpoint, that makes you race as hard as you can early in the race. And Friday becomes that much more important, especially for the first stage.

- Chad, you know, I don't mean to bring this up but I'm going to-- qualifying.

- Yeah.

- You guys have not had what you guys want, obviously, this season out of qualifying. So when you think about that, and you think about having to get up there, and win these changes or get stage points, are there-- if for some reason you guys were to qualify where you don't want to, how do you gamble to make that work? Is there even that opportunity?

- It's going to be a challenge. And we just don't have the speed in our car right now to qualify the way that we need to. I think that's all about to change this coming weekend. I think we've got some good stuff coming from the engine department. I think we've got some good race cars coming up, same race car we had at Dover. So I think we're going to get ourselves established early on Friday and be OK.

- The good news for everybody is this year Talladega in the middle of the round of 12, instead of being the elimination race. Despite that, we had some huge movement.

The big one, obviously, is Brad Keselowski, who entered Talladega outside looking in, gets the win that comes up here. And Ryan Blaney who was minus 5-- I got a little happy with my line there. He goes from there to here. They moved up nicely.

- Yes, and then you have Kyle Busch who was plus 12. And now he's minus 7. And where was Jamie McMurray? He was plus 1 and now-- it's just, like, all squiggly. It's all a mess in here.

- And you guys agree? Stenhouse, McMurray must win at Kansas if they're going to have an opportunity to move on, right?

- Must win.

- Absolutely.

- Yeah, I think they're in a must-win situation. And you know, I think as you look at the whole scenario, it can all change just like that this week, as well. So you just never know what's going to happen.

- It can all change in one stage.

- Oh, there's no question. But Kevin, for you guys, plus 26 and you mentioned the stage points at Charlotte. You don't finish the race at Talladega still plus 22. I mean, you had to be breathing easy once you saw this after the race.

- Well, it makes you breathe easier. But when you talk about the conversations going forward, if we have a car that's capable of winning this week we need to try to win a stage. We need to try to win the race. Because there's 7 playoff points that are there.

You want to advance, but you have to be aggressive to try to get those playoff points. Because as tight as it is now with 12, it gets even harder when it gets down to eight.