It was a wild afternoon at Talladega Superspeedway Sunday. There was no “big one” the multi-car crash Talladega is famous for, but there was plenty of drama. The Round of 8 was set as four drivers were eliminated including two pre-Chase favorites.
1. Joey Logano 4000 (+7). Led 45 laps Sunday including the final 39 for his second win at Talladega. Based on his practice and qualifying, Logano didn’t appear to have the car that could win. He proved everyone wrong winning decisively on a green-white-checkered flag finish. Was Logano playing the role of sleeper this weekend? Only he and his team, know, but he will be in the Round of 8 and be a contender.
2. Jimmie Johnson 4000 (-1) Johnson had already locked himself into the Round of 8 so just needed to survive Sunday. He did that, never having a car that could win and coming home 23rd. It will be interesting to see if he and his Hendrick team can turn it back up in the Round of 8.
3. Kevin Harvick 4000 (+4) . Harvick was a contender much of the race but never led a lap. Like Johnson he had already secured a spot in the next round. He was a little more competitive than Johnson Sunday, running as high as second at times. Harvick was shuffled back on the final restart and held on to finish with a decent 7th place.
4. Matt Kenseth 4000 (-2). Kenseth was part of a Joe Gibbs Racing trio that gambled a bit. He was one of three JGR cars who dropped to the back of the field prior to the green flag, hope that the “big one” would happen and they could avoid it. Well, the “big one” didn’t happen. He finished 28th, good enough to secure a spot in the next round.
5. Carl Edwards 4000 (-1). Edwards was the second of the JGR back running trio; he finished 29th.
6. Denny Hamlin 4000 (+4). Hamlin was not among the JGR trio to run in the back. Hamlin needed a strong finish and got that, passing Kurt Busch for third as they crossed the line and grabbing a spot in the Round of 8 from Austin Dillon via a tiebreaker.
7. Kurt Busch 4000 (-2). Kurt never led a lap, but as he has done most of the season avoided trouble, and made a late race charge towards the front; he finished 4th inches behind Hamlin.
8. Kyle Busch 4000. (-5). Kyle was the last part of the JGR back makers. He finished 30th.
9. Martin Truex Jr. 2191 (-3). Truex was eliminated when his engine let go on lap 41 and he finished 40th with a DNF. He won four races this season and was a favorite going into the Chase but will not run for a title this season.
10. Brad Keselowski 2168 (+1). Keselowski needed a win Sunday to advance and led a race high 90 laps, looking like that was going to happen. However he lost his engine on lap 144. Keselowski finished 38th and was eliminated.
11. Austin Dillon 2163 (-2). Dillon had barely advanced through the first two rounds. He nearly pulled it off again Sunday. He didn’t have the car to contend inside the top five and finished 9th, losing a tiebreaker to Hamlin and was eliminated.
12. Chase Elliott 2156 (0). Elliott, like Keselowski, needed a win to advance. He led five times for nine laps and was a contender almost all afternoon. He fell back late in the going however and saw his championship hopes for 2016 come to an end with a 12th place finish.