Getty Images

Playoff grid heading into Sunday’s elimination race at Kansas Speedway

Leave a comment

This Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway marks the end of the Round of 12 in the NASCAR Cup playoffs.

When the checkered flag falls Sunday, four playoff contenders will be eliminated, leaving eight drivers to left to contend for the title.

The third round will be made up of races at Martinsville Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway and Phoenix Raceway.

Four drivers will advance to the championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Heading into Kansas, Martin Truex Jr. (won at Charlotte) and Brad Keselowski (won at Talladega) have automatic berths into the Round of 8.

Entering Kansas, the four drivers are out of a transfer spot are: Kyle Busch (seven points out of the final transfer spot), Matt Kenseth (eight points), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (22 points) and Jamie McMurray (29 points).

Here’s the playoff grid:

Kyle Busch leaves Talladega outside top eight in points after DNF

2 Comments

Kyle Busch was one of the 17 drivers involved in a large crash with 16 laps to go in the Alabama 500 at Talladega.

As a result, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver finished 27th, giving him his second dismal race result in as many weeks. He finished 29th last week at Charlotte after multiple one-car incidents.

Busch’s fourth DNF of the season – and his first since the Brickyard 400 –  leaves him seven points behind Jimmie Johnson for the final transfer spot for the next round of the playoffs.

The pileup also included the playoff drivers of Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Martin Truex Jr. and Matt Kenseth.

“I had no clue what happened,” Busch said. “Unfortunately we just got messed up in that deal. I hate it for our situation and what we’ve got going on. That’s not what we needed today, but that’s what we got so we’ll just move on to next week.”

The second round of the playoffs conclude next Sunday at Kansas Speedway, where Busch has finished in the top five in his last five starts. That includes a win in the spring 2016 race.

Watch the above video for more from Kyle Busch.

What Cup drivers said after Talladega playoff race

1 Comment

Here’s what the field had to say after the Alabama 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Brad Keselowski – Winner: “This is still sinking in. It is a special place to get to race and a special place when you win here. It was really a collaborative effort with the team and getting a real fast car and making the right moves as a driver and a lot of help from up above with staying out of those wrecks. It really takes all three, and we had them all today.”

Ryan Newman – Finished second: “We held them off longer than I expected. I couldn’t tell how much nose damage I had, and I hadn’t led all day, so I didn’t know what to expect. I saw (Brad Keselowski) in the mirror backing up and then he lost his draft and then he backed up again and he caught (Joey Logano). That was all it took for him to get a good run. I would have maybe played it differently and backed it up in hindsight, backed up to them in hindsight, but I don’t think it would have made a difference. They were double-teaming me, and you know it was still a good race to finish second.”

Trevor Bayne – Finished third:  “I was right in the middle of it and, man, I was sliding backwards up the race track thinking, ‘Oh, this is going to hurt.  Somebody is coming through or I’m going to back it in the fence.’  I just kept turning the wheel to the left trying to get the nose to slide around and it did, and I ended up going straight, so that was pretty cool.  My guys did a good job of fixing the damage. We couldn’t have been back out there with speed if they didn’t assess it.  We got a red flag to be able to look at everything, and they did a great job getting the work done, getting it back on track and just thankful we finished one. We just survived better than everybody else. It wasn’t injury-free for sure.”

JOEY LOGANO – Finished fourth: “Brad and I worked well together, and we were able to help him win the race today, which was good.  I wish we could have won the race.  I had a good enough run, but the damage and all – even though the guys did a good job fixing it – you could tell the speed wasn’t there as much at the end, but we were still able to pick up enough to keep some speed in it and get a fourth-place finish.  It’s a good way to recover after a crash to finish fourth.  I guess you should be proud of that, but I’m still mad I didn’t win.”

Aric Almirola – Finished fifth:  “That was exciting.  The whole race was exciting.  Right there at the end I was really committed to making sure that we got a blue oval (Ford) to Victory Lane.  I was kind of watching (Brad Keselowski) and (Joey Logano), and we were all kind of trying to work together, and my car had some damage on it from earlier in the race, and I knew my car wasn’t probably good enough to lead, but if I could have done something right there at the end, we might have been able to pull one off.  But, nonetheless, we were able to get a (Ford) to Victory Lane.  It’s great for everybody at Ford and cool to see Brad win.  He’s obviously been really successful here at Talladega, but I honestly thought for a minute there we might have a shot at it.  Some things just didn’t work out going down the back straightaway.”

Denny Hamlin – Finished sixth: “I maybe should’ve pushed (Ryan Newman) a little bit longer. I tried to pass him in a different spot. Yeah, just a flick shy of clearing him there, and I knew if I could clear him, then the runs were going to be very small because there were very few cars out there. I did what I wanted to do. I pushed him out there to the lead, stayed attached and then made a move, but I just didn’t do a very good job there those last two laps.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Finished seventh: “Yeah, we got lucky. That was just luck being in the right place at the right time and not getting swept up in any of those wrecks. We had one there that knocked the splitter down really bad on the right front, and that is why we couldn’t do anything at the end.  The car was just dragging the ground and wouldn’t go, wouldn’t take off, so it was a little wounded out there at the end.  Still got a decent finish and came out of here in one piece.”

Ty Dillon – Finished 11th: “We were able to avoid a lot of the crashes today at Talladega, and the GEICO Chevrolet was really fast. We suffered a little bit of nose damage early, but it wasn’t anything that affected the car. I thought if we had a chance to work with another Chevrolet we would be able to get to the front, but I couldn’t get any help from behind. We ended up 11th. It was a good day for our team, but I know our car was better than 11th. It’s just tough, and it’s disappointing we couldn’t get any help from behind to make a run at it at the end.”

Kyle Larson – Finished 13th: “I think (Chase Elliott) got into (Daniel Suarez) and got him sideways and in to me. There are a lot of torn up cars, but we still finished 13th and maintained our points on the cutoff there. It would have been a worse day. But it also could have been better … could have won. I was glad we decided to race there in the second half. There was a lot of opportunities to get caught up in crashes. It was just crazy that a lot of the playoff guys, pretty much everybody except Brad (Keselowski) and Denny (Hamlin) got collected in wrecks. Pretty crazy day but a typical Talladega. Just need to go to Kansas and have a solid race. A top-10 run will be all we need to do probably.”

CHASE ELLIOTT – Finished 16th: “I had a really big run, Dale (Earnhardt, Jr.) was giving me a great shove and Daniel (Suarez) had left enough room in the middle and (Kyle) Larson left me enough room from the bottom. There was a hole and I filled it. I don’t guess Daniel (Suarez) either saw me in time or what it was just had a high rate of speed coming and he didn’t know or tried to block it I’m not sure. We will move on.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 18th: “We were up by the wall, and somebody probably got turned, and I got in it.  I didn’t think there were enough cars to wreck that much anymore, but we happened to find it and a good day kind of down the drain.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished 20th: “I’m fine. The last (wreck) we slowed down, and I got in the back of (Brendan Gaughan). I checked up and then (Ryan Blaney) popped up on the race track, and I couldn’t get slowed down. It was just a bad weekend. The Busch Light Ford wasn’t as good as we needed. We had to start in the back and went to the back a couple other times and just couldn’t make anything happen.  We were on defense the whole time and wound up wrecked twice, so not a good weekend.”

Martin Truex Jr. – Finished 23rd: “I got into the right rear of (David Ragan) a little bit, and he got squirrelly, and then they started wrecking in front of us so I don’t know if I turned him sideways, and he hit somebody on the inside and then hit somebody on the outside in front of me. I’m not sure if that was the cause of the accident or it was just a secondary thing. I hadn’t seen anything up ahead of us. If it was my fault, I hate it for everybody involved. Just Talladega. Just everybody running hard with 18 to go and trying to get in a hole that really wasn’t there yet.”

Jimmie Johnson – Finished 24th: “Really hard to tell what started (the wreck with 16 laps to go). I just saw (David Ragan) turning down across the group and hooked me and sent me up into the wall. What we are trying to get to the bottom of is our spotter was informed to let us start working on the car, and I guess there was some miscommunication there from NASCAR to our spotter, and we may have lost some valuable points on pit road as a result. So, we’ve got to get to the bottom of that and find out what happened there.”

Kurt Busch – Finished 25th: “We got hooked in the right rear, and I was pretty close to the front of the pack. I am just happy everything turned out the way it did to just not get clobbered by all the cars coming by. My guess is the outside lane was all jumbled up getting aggressive and pushing and somebody spun out and clipped us in the right rear. I thought we were looking good. We were coming from behind and the inside lane was open and we were making hay but now here we are coming out of the infield care center. That is just Talladega. That is how it works out. We need to figure out how to make the cars better so everybody can bump draft a little harder.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Finished 26th: “I really haven’t seen the replay. I was just running up the bottom there and (David Ragan) ended up right in front of us. It was a bummer. We were working on getting our track position back. We felt good in the first run and got hung out there at the end of the second stage and were just working on our track position. I felt like we had a really fast Ford to contend for a win and put on a show for all these fans that came out. Bummer we don’t get to do it but we will go on to Kansas next week and have some fun.”

Kyle Busch – Finished 27th: “I’m fine. I just didn’t know where the heck (Jimmie Johnson) came from with all of the headrests and all of that stuff I never saw him coming. I wish I would’ve obviously, I would’ve tried to dodge left and go to the apron and shoot down there. Looking at it, it looks like I could’ve missed it. Just never seen him coming, so unfortunately we got caught up in that mess. None of our own wrong doing. I thought when I cleared (David Ragan), I was home free of it and then had another one come up from the left side. Just hate it for my guys and everything going on with what our situation was today. We’ll just have to go on and go to Kansas now.”

Landon Cassill – Finished 28th: “Honestly, I just saw David (Ragan) sideways in front of me.  I don’t know what started (the wreck) or if he was the second thing that happened, but somebody hit me from behind or something and sent me into the wall.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 29th: “Just part of this racing. What do you do? You can go and race hard all day. You can ride in the back and try to not to get in one of those big wrecks. I was proud we got some of those stage points. Was trying to push back up there. We were in a pretty good spot. Had a little momentum there. Just got caught in the wreck. There was nowhere to go. You are just holding on after that. It took the car out. (Ryan Newman) got shuffled to the back and (was) just riding there. He does that a lot in these races and it seems to work out. Maybe I need to do that strategy. If your car is not fast enough to lead, you should probably stay in the back.”

Michael McDowell – Finished 30th: “It was just chaos. Just tried to get clear of it. I almost had it cleared and then somebody came down the track and got us. It is part of Talladega racing. You know there is going to be a big one, but you don’t where or when, you just hope you aren’t in it. Just doesn’t seem to matter if you are in the front, or the middle or the back. You just aren’t immune to it.”

Erik Jones – Finished 36th: “It was kind of hard to see from my view. I was behind (Kyle Busch) and he started checking up, he swerved off to the left, and (Jamie McMurray) was sitting there really slow on the race track so I didn’t really have any choice. Unfortunately ran him over and kind of caused a chain reaction from there. It’s a bummer. We didn’t get to race today and I was hoping we’d just get a chance to go up and see what we had. It’s unfortunate, but those kind of things are going to happen here.”

JAMIE McMURRAY – Finished 37th: “We wanted to pit a couple of laps earlier, and you’re somewhat dependent on the spotters to tell you when you’re going to pit. You assume everyone is working as a group. It was my fault. I assumed that they said (Kyle Busch) was going to let me in, so I thought we were all going to pit. I didn’t even know where (Erik Jones) was. When I got on the brakes, I thought we were all coming to pit road as a group. I’ll take the blame for that. I just kind of assumed we were coming to pit road right there. Obviously not everyone was.”

The points standings and who’s in trouble entering the cutoff race at Kansas Speedway

2 Comments

Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Jamie McMurray left Talladega Superspeedway with their championship hopes hanging in the balance Sunday.

Busch, who finished 27th Sunday, is ranked ninth in the standings, seven points behind Jimmie Johnson for the final transfer spot from the Round of 12, which concludes with the Oct. 22 cutoff race at Kansas Speedway.

Kenseth (14th Sunday) is eight points out in 10th. Stenhouse (26th) is 22 points behind, and McMurray, who finished 37th after causing the first caution on the 26th lap, is 29 points out and virtually needs a victory to advance.

Charlotte winner Martin Truex Jr. and Talladega winner Brad Keselowski are the only drivers ensured of advancing to the Round of 8. The other six drivers who currently are above the cut line: Kyle Larson (plus 29), Kevin Harvick (plus 22), Denny Hamlin (plus 21), Chase Elliott (plus 20), Ryan Blaney (plus 9) and Johnson (plus 8).

Click here for the points standings after Talladega.

Brad Keselowski wins Alabama 500 at Talladega Superspeedway

1 Comment

Brad Keselowski survived three major wrecks in the final 16 laps to win the Alabama 500 at Talladega Superspeedway and advance to the third round of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.

Keselowski passed Ryan Newman on the final turn of the last lap to secure the win.

The Team Penske driver beat Newman, Trevor Bayne, Joey Logano and Aric Almirola to the finish line.

“I survived,” Keselowski told NBC. “What a special day. We haven’t been as good a we want to be on the mile-and-a-halfs, so we knew we needed to come to Talladega and get it done. This is a great track for us and one we really enjoy coming to. It’s great to get a win here. No. 5. I never thought I would win at all at Talladega, but five times. Oh my gosh.”

The win was Keselowski’s third at Talladega since 2014, his fifth overall at the 2.66-mile track, and it came in his 300th Cup start.

Keselowski took his No. 2 Ford to victory lane despite having radio problems in the middle of the race that hampered communication with his team.

“You’ve got to have a little bit of luck in these races and you’ve got to be able to execute at the end,” Keselowski said.

Pole-sitter Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished seventh in his last Cup start at the speedway.

The paint scheme on Keselowski’s car was a tribute to Earnhardt. It was based on Keselowski’s paint scheme when he won his first two Xfinity races for JR Motorsports, which is co-owned by Earnhardt.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Brad Keselowski

STAGE 2 WINNER: Ryan Blaney

MORE: Race Results

MORE: Points standings

WHO HAD A GOOD DAY: The 13 cars that finished on the lead lap. … Ryan Newman’s second-place finish is his best result in 32 Talladega starts, … Gray Gaulding finished a career-best ninth in his 26th start. … Dale Earnhardt Jr. has finished in the top 10 in two of the last three races. They are his only top 10s in the last 15 races. … Joey Logano finished fourth despite suffering major damage in one of the three major wrecks late in the race.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Jamie McMurray was eliminated after a multi-car crash on Lap 26 as he and other Chevrolet drivers attempted to enter pit road. He finished 37th. …. Clint Bowyer finished 35th after being involved in a multi-car wreck on a restart with 33 to go …. Playoff contenders Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth were in a 17-car wreck with 16 laps to go. Kenseth and Harvick continued, but Harvick was eliminated in another wreck with 10 to go along with playoff contender Ryan Blaney and Danica Patrick. … Johnson was ruled out of the race by NASCAR for his team working on his car under the first red flag. He finished 24th … A third red flag was issued with five laps to go for a wreck with Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Daniel Suarez, Chris Buescher and Kasey Kahne.

NOTABLE: Keselowski is the seventh driver to win in his 300th start … Team Penske has won four of the last five Talladega races. … The 17-car wreck with 16 laps to go brought out the red flag, which lasted 12 minutes and 30 seconds … The multi-car wreck with 10 laps to go caused a five minute and 45 second red flag. … The third red flag with five laps to go lasted 17 minutes and 14 seconds.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I’m glad I don’t have to do that again.” – Brad Keselowski after surviving three major wrecks and radio issues to win.

WHAT’S NEXT: Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway at 3 p.m. ET on Oct. 22 on NBCSN.