# There is No Such Thing as a Cutoff Line in NASCAR

Three spots remain in the playoffs. If there’s a new winner at Darlington, only two drivers will make it in on points. Everyone talks about the race in terms of a cutoff line.

The problem?

There is no such thing as a cutoff line in NASCAR.

## The Usual Cutoff-Line Picture

Here’s the current standings from nascar.com. Not to pick on them; everyone does it the same way.

To this information, let’s add the actual points each driver has:

• Truex: 695
• Gibbs: 676
• Buescher: 658
• Wallace: 637
• Chastain: 631

If Chris Buescher is 21 points above the line and has 658 points, that would set the cutoff line at 637 points. But that can’t be right, because Bubba Wallace has 637 points and he is 21 points below the line.

The important number here is that 21 points points separated the third-highest driver and the fourth-highest driver of those not in the playoffs already.

Cutoff lines are great for things like assigning grades, but they simply do not work here. If any of you remember either learning the numberline in elementary school or the very start of an algebra class, you might remember that 2-(-2) = 4. That’s right: subtracting a negative number is like adding it.

The way everyone uses the cutoff line suggests that there are 21-(-21) = 42 points between them.

## An Alternative Picture

Here’s a better way to get a good picture of the playoff situation among those still trying to get in.

I’ve listed drivers who aren’t in the playoffs in red and the one driver in this points range who won (Alex Bowman) in grey. With all due respect to Mr. Bowman, ignore him for now.

The spacing between each driver is proportional to how many points there are between them and the drivers around them.

The other thing to keep in mind is that the most points any driver can earn in a single race is 60. That means any two drivers with less than 60 points between them can switch places.

If Truex wrecks on lap 1, Gibbs needs to earn only 20 point to be the first driver in line for getting into the playoffs on points.

Gibbs and Buescher are both in position to jump Truex. Wallace could do it, too, but he would need 58 points and the only way to get that is by winning both stages (20 points) and finishing in the top three.

So don’t talk to me about cutoff lines. The race to get into the playoffs is a moving target, but the only thing that matters is the point difference between drivers.