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NASCAR America: Drivers on the playoff bubble gamble for every point

Alex Bowman, Ricky Stenhouse and one unusual name lead the list of drivers on the NASCAR playoff bubble.

Three races remain in the regular season. At least five drivers will make the Cup playoffs based on points, and that underscores the importance of every position on the track, according to NASCAR America Analysts Parker Kligerman and Kyle Petty.

Austin Dillon is currently outside of the top 16, which moved the bubble to the 15th-place position in the standings – a spot currently occupied by Alex Bowman. The drivers immediately above that cutline and directly below are in a position where they need to maximize their finishes and gamble for points.

“We saw (Bowman) run as high as third place, and then I saw him tweet after the race that they went from a third-place car to a 20th-place car out of nowhere,” Kligerman said on Monday’s edition of NASCAR America. “But that is what this race team needed to do. Even if they were having a day that was going pear-shaped, to still salvage a 19th-place finish.”

Sitting 62 points behind Bowman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. did not have a strong enough day to capitalize. He ran in the mid-teens most of the afternoon at Michigan and finished 18th – one spot ahead of Bowman. He did not gain any ground in the points, however, because Bowman earned one stage point at the end of Segment 1. Both drivers accumulated 19 championship points.

“All (Bowman) has to do is race around that 16th-place position and make sure that Jimmie Johnson and Stenhouse and some of those guys don’t get too far ahead,” Kyle Petty said.

The 16th-place position in a Cup race awards 21 points.

“What I do like about (Stenhouse’s team) is they maximized what they had,” Petty added. “We’ve seen this team go in a have a top 12 or 13 car and end up with a 20th-place finish.”

Jimmie Johnson finished 28th at Michigan with a late-race tire problem. He did not score any segment points and earned only nine points during the race.

“This team took a gamble,” Kligerman said. “Got track position, led some laps and really showed they’re feeling comfortable about their points’ position and therefore, they’re willing to take a gamble like this to see what their car will do up front – to maybe see if they have more speed in that No. 48.”

For more, watch the video above.

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