William Byron and Ryan Blaney are the only two drivers that have confirmed places in the Round of 8 heading into the Round of 12 final race at the Charlotte Roval.
Byron triumphed in Texas, while Blaney triumphed in Talladega. The Talladega race on Sunday jumbled the point standings. Brad Keselowski and Ross Chastain were the only two playoff participants that did not finish the race, which had 29 drivers on the lead lap at the end.
Keselowski is now two points ahead of the cutline, while Chastain is nine points behind, tied with Bubba Wallace. Tyler Reddick, a road racing enthusiast, is only two points off the cutline. Kyle Busch is in a must-win situation if he wants to stay in the playoffs, as he sits 26 points behind the cutline.
Talladega Superspeedway did not host any NASCAR Xfinity Series races. The race at the Charlotte Roval next weekend is a cutoff race. It will determine who advances to the Round of 8. With victories at Bristol and Texas, Justin Allgaier and John Hunter Nemechek have already qualified for the next round.
Parker Kligerman is -1, Jeb Burton is -19, Josh Berry is -27, and Sam Mayer is -34 going into the last race of the current round. Cole Custer (+62), Austin Hill (+43), Chandler Smith (+31), Sammy Smith (+17), Sheldon Creed (+8), and Daniel Hemric (+1).
Because Brett Moffitt, the winner of Saturday’s Love’s RV Stop 250 at Talladega Superspeedway, is not a playoff contender, Corey Heim is the only driver who has guaranteed a spot in the final four.
With his victory at Bristol last month, Heim established himself as a title contender. The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series is on hiatus until the Oct. 21 event at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The final three title contenders will be chosen at that time. Ty Majeski and defending series champion Zane Smith both need to win if they want to compete in the championship round at Phoenix Raceway.
Below the cutline as they enter Homestead are Grant Enfinger, -3; Ben Rhodes, -5; Majeski, -19; and Smith, -36. Carson Hocevar (+20), Christian Eckes (+6), and Nick Sanchez (+3) are among those who have surpassed the cutline. Ryan Blaney won the YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway in a photo finish after a last-lap battle with Kevin Harvick that went all the way to the start/finish line. Blaney beat Harvick to the line by.012 seconds. Blaney’s victory is his second of the 2023 season, his third at Talladega, and, most importantly, it advances him to the NASCAR playoffs’ Round of 8.
Blaney pushed to the front exiting Turn 2 after leading the outside line to the white flag, then chopped to the bottom as Harvick came up to block him. Blaney took the lead in Turns 3 and 4, but Harvick was able to reclaim the lead coming off the last corner and through the tri-oval to the checkered flag.
As the pack shattered behind them, Blaney beat Harvick to the checkered flag by inches, earning another spectacular victory to his Talladega resume. Blaney’s Dega triumphs have all been decided in photo finishes by a cumulative margin of victory of.026.
Harvick’s second-place finish was null and void, as his car’s windshield fasteners were deemed to be insecure during post-race tech inspection.
According to Blaney’s interview with NBC Sports, the race got “pretty wild” on the previous restart, “let alone the last couple of laps”: “Kind of losing momentum, getting it back, just getting clear to the bottom to kind of get to the front row and drag race it out with Kevin.” It’s awesome that you’ve won three times in a row at Talladega.
The race on Sunday will go down in Talladega history as the sixth closest in speedway annals, but that isn’t even the most impressive part. There were a total of 70 official lead changes among 24 different drivers, making this race the one with the most lead changes since the fall of 2011.
The Destructive Dega
The playoff race at Talladega is feared because it is possible for a driver to suffer a fatal setback in his pursuit of the Cup Series championship, and this setback is usually (but not always) beyond his control. On Sunday, two cases were seen that exemplify both ends of the spectrum.
As the leaders neared Turn 3 on the penultimate lap of Stage 1, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s car slowed and ran out of fuel, causing a dangerously close group. Ross Chastain was unable to make it through the tight spot and crashed into the outside wall, putting him in last place and severely damaging the vehicles of Kyle Busch and Christopher Bell.
Just the way things work out. Chastain said to NBC Sports, “I don’t take any of this personally.” I probably would have been safer if I had stayed at the bottom a few laps earlier. A automobile literally dropped into my lap at that moment. And I went for the gap — I should have lifted, of course. But I’ll remember that for the future and do better.
As the race progressed, Brad Keselowski ended up controlling his own fate. Keselowski turned Carson Hocevar down the track as he tried to bump-draft and push him forward in the top lane, but instead he was hit by Austin Dillon and Ty Gibbs, who then clipped Keselowski on their way to the outside wall as they exited the tri-oval.
After the subsequent multi-car accident, Keselowski was the only driver left in the race by a slim two-point margin.
According to Keselowski, “we got kind of shuffled to the outside line here.” “The No. 42 pulled up in front of me, and I said, ‘Alright, let’s go; we’re going to go back up to the front.’ I gave him a little shove, and he went flying. He didn’t do anything illegal, in my opinion; he just wasn’t a very good driver.
“It’s very annoying. We were able to win the second stage and maintain a commanding lead for a considerable amount of time. It all fell apart on us, and that can happen around here.
Among the remaining playoff candidates, Denny Hamlin fared the best, coming back from a lap down due to a pit road penalty to finish fourth. The rest of the lineup was a hodgepodge, meaning that the race for the final playoff position is going to be intense.
At the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, Hamlin (+50), Bell (+22), Chris Buescher (+19), Martin Truex Jr. (+17), and Kyle Larson (+15) all have double-digit point leads, while Keselowski (+2) leads Tyler Reddick (-2) for the final playoff place. To keep his title hopes alive, Kyle Busch (-26) has to win, while Bubba Wallace (-9) and Ross Chastain (-10) are still in striking distance of the cut line.