For a few Playoff drivers, Sunday at Dover was the worst of times

DOVER, DELAWARE - OCTOBER 06: Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 Hooters Give a Hoot Chevrolet, is pushed to the garage during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Drydene 400 at Dover International Speedway on October 06, 2019 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Kyle Larson could celebrate a day of firsts Sunday, his first win at Dover, and becoming the first driver guaranteed to move on to the next round of the Playoffs.  He also has little to worry about as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series heads to Talladega Superspeedway, a race many call a wildcard.

“It’s ‑‑ I don’t like that place,” Larson said with a chuckle. “So it’s pretty neat to do what we did today.”

For several other Playoff drivers, Sunday’s race at Dover was a disaster. The trouble started even before the green flag fell. On the pace laps, Joey Logano first pitted then headed to the garage with rear-end issues with his Ford.  The team was able to fix it, but Logano lost 25 laps and a chance at the win.

“You can’t make up 20 laps, that is for sure,” Logano said. “Maybe you can get one or two back if things go right. It was a bummer. Things happen. I guess the good news is that I think we are the last one in right now. We definitely used our mulligan. We used the playoff points we accumulated; we just have to be perfect now.”

Unlike the rest of the Playoff drivers, Logano doesn’t seem too nervous heading to Talladega where he’s won three times.

“Talladega is arguably one of our best racetracks and I would say Kansas is as well,” Logano said. “We just have to be perfect from here.”

Logano is tied for with William Byron for the final cutoff spot for the round of 8. Byron had his own issues Sunday getting penalized for speeding on pit road on lap 188; he came 17th one lap down and finished 13th, two laps down.

“We couldn’t recover from that after,” Byron said. “We just had a miscalculation of when we could accelerate out of our pit box. I thought we were fine on pit road speed to leave the box hard. That was a bummer for sure. We had a pretty good car. We couldn’t really make many passes, but we were able to get from the back after having to start pretty close to the tail end. It just really hurt our day.”

Unlike Logano, Byron hasn’t amassed a good record at Talladega. In his three Cup starts there he’s finished no better than 20th.

“Our cars are always fast at Talladega,” Byron said. “So we’ll just have to go there, lay it out there and see what happens.”

Perhaps no one had worse, or shorter, day than Chase Elliott. Last week’s winner at the Roval, Elliott made all of 8 laps Sunday before engine issues with his Chevy parked him in the garage.

“We were just kind of making laps and then obviously had a failure,” Elliott said. “It’s an unfortunate way to start this round for sure.”

Elliott finished dead last, 38, and fell to 11th in the standings, 70 points behind.

“I don’t know where we’ll stack up,” he added. “I assume we’ll have to win one of these next few weeks. If you ever make it to Homestead, you’re going to have to win down there. I guess it’s a good opportunity to practice here these next few weeks.”

Ryan Blaney reported possible engine issues on lap 46; then radioed his crew that his Ford had no brakes on lap 298. He was soon in the garage and the crew was unable to affect repairs.  Blaney finished ahead of Elliott but in 35th.

“Left front hub burned up,” Blaney said.

He heads to Talladega 12th in the Playoff standings and will likely need a win if he hopes to advance.

“Obviously not good,” was all Blaney could add.

Championship Standings after Dover II
1.Kyle Larson
2.Martin Truex +63
3.Denny Hamlin +48
4.Kyle Busch +48
5.Kevin Harvick +42
6.Brad Keselowski +20
7.Alex Bowman +17
8.William Byron +0

9.Joey Logano -0
10.Clint Bowyer -4
11.Chase Elliott -7
12.Ryan Blaney -22

Greg Engle