Four drivers, including two pre-Playoff favorites, are facing elimination after the chaos otherwise known as Talladega.
Hendrick Motorsports rookie Alex Bowman was never in contention for the win Sunday but did run inside the top 10 for much of the race and finished 9th in the first stage. He was holding his own in the closing laps, but with two laps to go Bowman spun up into the wall in turn 4 sweeping up JJ Yeley and setting up the races final caution. Bowman finished 33rd and is the 12th driver in the field, 68 points out of the cutoff.
“These things just don’t drive very well,” Bowman said. “Everybody is out of control. That’s why you see so much single-file racing. The cars are just all over the place. So, we got to racing there and the No. 6 (Trevor Bayne) kept blocking the top. We were just trying to make something happen there. I drove in the middle and just turned sideways and. I was just trying to make something happen there at the end.”
Kyle Larson one of the pre-Playoff favorites never seemed to have enough speed all weekend. He qualified 34th and was forced to start at the rear of the field Sunday when the crew made unapproved adjustments.
His Chevy blew a tire on lap 103 coming out of turn 2 after recovering to 11th. During the spin the blown tire chewed up the front fender. Despite losing a lap Larson was able to rally back to finish 11th.
Larson heads to Kansas 11th, 26 points from the cutoff.
“We just had a terrible race car and were really slow all weekend,” he said. “We were able to salvage a decent finish, but the Fords are so fast here and can rack up a lot of stage points. Even when they have a bad day, they still gain points on us. It is what it is. We’ll just go to Kansas and try and win.”
Ryan Blaney started 19th and ran near the front but in the final laps could only hold on to finish 10th. He’s 10th in points 22 below the cutoff.
The most surprising driver, and a pre-Playoff favorite, in danger of elimination is Penske driver Brad Keselowski. He started 18th Sunday and led 21 laps. The driver who has five wins at Talladega leading all active drivers, was hoping to add a sixth victory and have a pass into the Round of 8.
It wasn’t to be.
Like many among the leaders, Keselowski and his crew gambled on fuel mileage and lost. His Ford ran out on the last lap and he was scored 27th. He heads to Kansas 9th, one position and 18 points out of the 8th spot in the standings.
“It’s certainly not ideal, but it is what it is,” Keselowski said.
|Rank||Driver||Points to cutoff|
|8||Martin Truex Jr.||18|