Updated Monster Energy NASCAR Cup playoff standings after Kansas

The stage is set for the stretch run of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.

The list of championship-eligible drivers were cut in half following the Hollywood Casino 400 on Sunday at Kansas Speedway. That group included Kyle Larson, Brad Keselowski, Ryan Blaney and Alex Bowman – expected championship contenders to varying degrees at the start of the season.

That means the final eight are the cream of the crop, especially considering that each of them has won at least one race this season. The group just eliminated included several winless drivers, meaning that success during the regular season carries over into the playoffs.

Since playoff points earned during the course of the year carry over from round-to-round, that means the Big Three are once again leading the championship standings. And not only do they lead the standings, they won again carry a sizeable points advantage.

However, unlike previous rounds, it’s possible that a large points cushion may not be enough to ensure that all three advance into the Championship Race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

It’s possible that three individual drivers not part of the Big Three could win the races at Martinsville Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway and Phoenix Raceway and that would mean that just one of the Three would advance on points. It's also true that Truex is once again the one driver most at risk of falling out on points, just because he doesn't have quite the prolific number of playoff points as Busch and Harvick.

Of course, the Big Three hold their lofty status for a reason, so it’s still going to remain difficult to unseat them.

So, as it stands, the four lowest drivers on the grid after three races without a win will be eliminated and the four that remains will race for the Cup Series Championship at Homestead.

Round of Eight Initial Standings

1. Kyle Busch +40
2. Kevin Harvick +39
3. Martin Truex Jr. +23
4. Chase Elliott +3

5. Clint Bowyer -3
6. Joey Logano -3
7. Kurt Busch -3
8. Aric Almirola -12

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