Drivers in danger of being eliminated from Cup playoffs at Kansas

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The Cup playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway is over and unless you were a driver for Stewart-Haas Racing, not much good happened to the 12 driver playoff field.

Aric Almirola won and joined Chase Elliott in the third round.

That leaves 10 drivers scrambling for the remaining six spots.

Outside the top eight, Kyle Larson (26 points behind cutoff) and specifically Alex Bowman (68) are in must-win scenarios as the bottom two drivers.

But who else is feeling the heat of maybe missing out on the next round after Sunday’s race at Kansas Speedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC)?

Clint Bowyer (21 points above cutoff spot)

Bowyer entered Talladega below the cutoff with Almirola and is in a better position after finishing second in both stages and the race.

He will look to make his spot in Round 3 permanent with a win in Kansas, which would be his first at his home track.

In his last three Kansas starts, Bowyer’s best finish was ninth in the spring 2017 race. He placed 19th and 15th in the next two.

“After the frustrating run at Dover, I had to gain some points,”  Bowyer said. “It didn’t do any good to get good stage points if the guys that I’m racing for this next round do it, as well.  I had to get separated some way, shape or form.

“I mean, that guy sitting in Victory Lane right there (Almirola), as happy as I am for him, that’s a spot that just went away for that next round.

“We have to go home, at Kansas take care of business.  I think we can do that.  We needed an opportunity here.”

Martin Truex Jr. (+18)

After a “miserable” run at Talladega ended in a 23rd-place finish, Truex is likely looking forward to a 1.5-mile track.

Truex owns the final transfer spot on the playoff grid entering Kansas – where he’s won two of the last three races and finished second in the spring.

“I think that’s a good place for us even if we had to win,” Truex said after Talladega. “I am not saying we’re going to go there and win. But anytime we can go to any of those tracks, I feel like we have a shot. It’s racing. A lot can happen as we saw today. We’ll give it everything we got and bring a great car to Kansas. We’ll try to get the checkered flag.”

Brad Keselowski (18 points below the cutoff spot)

The Team Penske driver and defending race winner saw his hopes of winning in Talladega vanish when he had to pit for fuel coming to the green flag in overtime. He finished 27th after he led 21 laps.

Keselowski is now on the outside looking into the top eight despite having won three of five races in September, including the playoff opener.

Keselowski has one top five in his last five Kansas starts (second in spring 2017). He’s placed 13th and 14th in the last two visits.

Ryan Blaney (-22)

After winning at the Charlotte Roval to advance to Round 2, Blaney’s playoff hopes are looking a bit dire.

Like Keselowski, Blaney also had to pit for fuel coming to the overtime restart.

As a result, Blaney has finishes of 11th (Dover) and 29th (Talladega) entering Kansas.

Like Truex, Blaney has some positive recent history at the 1.5-mile track.

He finished fourth and third there last year.

In May, Blaney led 54 laps before he was eliminated in an incident with Kyle Larson with 20 laps to go. He finished 37th.

Below is the playoff grid heading into Kansas.