Cup drivers are about to enter the unknown.
Or as most call it … Talladega Superspeedway. Drivers know that they are as likely to be in a crash as to finish Sunday’s playoff race at Talladega (2 p.m. ET on NBC).
“There’s going to be carnage like there always is,” said William Byron, who holds the final transfer spot to the next round by a tiebreaker. “It’s probably going to be more than normal though with how fast we’re going.”
Of course, no one knows who will make it out of Talladega unscathed and who might see their title hopes diminish.
Talladega doesn’t care where a driver enters its playoff race in the standings. In 2014, Kyle Busch entered second in points, ran in the back to be safe yet was still in a wreck and failed to advance to the next round back when Talladega was an elimination race.
So yes, anything can happen.
Here’s where things stand for drivers entering the middle race of the Round of 12:
DRIVERS WHO ARE SAFE
Are you kidding? Other than Kyle Larson, whose Dover win put him into the next round, no one is safe regardless of their standing in the points. Everyone will be on edge this weekend. There are just degrees of feeling good.
Martin Truex Jr. is 63 points — more than a full race — ahead of Joey Logano, the first driver outside a transfer spot. So Truex knows he won’t fall out of a transfer spot heading into the round’s elimination race at Kansas the following weekend.
GLAD TO BE ANYWHERE OTHER THAN DOVER
Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch are both 48 points ahead of Logano.
Wouldn’t you know there’s a way to tie Logano and Hamlin, who expressed his displeasure with how Logano raced him late in stage 2 at Dover while Logano was more than 20 laps down and Hamlin was trying to stay in the lead to win the stage. Instead, Hamlin lost the stage and a playoff point and then lost control of the race and a chance to win.
As for Busch, he’s made it clear he didn’t like the racing at Dover in May and also wasn’t pleased with his car’s performance there. Busch was never a factor at Dover last weekend but scored a sixth-place finish despite a speeding penalty. It helped that so many other playoff drivers had problems and Busch took advantage.
IT’S ALL GOOD
Kevin Harvick is 42 points ahead of Logano. Harvick is in a good spot. Or at least seems to be. Everything can change in a moment at Talladega.
LITTLE ROOM FOR ERROR
Keselowski is one of the sport’s premier racers at Talladega, having won there three times since 2014, matching teammate Joey Logano’s total in the same period. Bowman finished second at Talladega in May.
NO HOLDING BACK
William Byron, Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney. Byron holds the final transfer spot via a tiebreaker on Logano. Any of these drivers could win and change the dynamics heading into the elimination race at Kansas. Elliott won there in April.
3095 – Martin Truex Jr.
3080 – Denny Hamlin
3080 – Kyle Busch
3074 – Kevin Harvick
3063 – Kyle Larson (Dover win moves him to next round)
3052 – Brad Keselowski
3049 – Alex Bowman
3032 – William Byron
3032 – Joey Logano
3028 – Clint Bowyer
3025 – Chase Elliott
3010 – Ryan Blaney