Mistakes adding up in first four races of Cup playoffs


With Sunday night’s win at Las Vegas, Denny Hamlin has won the opening race in the first and second rounds of this year’s NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.

While Hamlin and his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing team are finally converting their season-long speed into victories, they haven’t been entirely clean in this playoff run.

In fact, only one of the 12 remaining playoff drivers has avoided some sort of problem.

That would be Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski, who finished seventh Sunday. He’s finished no better than sixth in these playoffs, but has also finished no worse than 13th.

Down on speed, the 2012 Cup champion is hanging around in eighth in the playoff standings. He gets his best shot to reach the Round of 8 with a win as the playoffs roll into Talladega this weekend (2 p.m. ET Sunday, NBC).

But from here on in, every mistake – even simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time – will come with a bigger price.

With help from Racing Insights, here’s a look at the mistakes that the remaining playoff drivers have made so far:

Denny Hamlin (Advanced to Round of 8 – Won at Las Vegas)

Kyle Larson (second in playoff standings)

  • Richmond (Round of 16): Started from the rear due to inspection failures. Finished sixth.
  • Las Vegas (Round of 12): Missed pit road during green flag pit cycle at Lap 213; was running 12th at the time. Recovered to finish 10th.

Kyle Busch (third in playoff standings)

  • Darlington (Round of 16): Lap 124 – Contact from Austin Dillon sent him into Turn 2 wall, inflicting heavy damage. Heads to garage at considerable rate of speed, which earned him a $50,000 fine. Finished 35th.
  • Bristol (Round of 16): Lap 455 – Flat right side tire forced him to pit from sixth and loses two laps. Finished 21st.

Martin Truex Jr (fourth in playoff standings)

  • Darlington (Round of 16): Lap 166 – Pitted for loose wheel under caution, which came out during green flag pit cycle and trapped him a lap down because he couldn’t take the wave around … Lap 320 – Penalized for speeding on pit road while running second. Recovered to finish fourth.
  • Richmond (Round of 16): Start violation – Beat lead car to start/finish line at start of the race. Went on to win the race.
  • Las Vegas (Round of 12): Started from the rear after failing inspection twice. Finished fourth.

Ryan Blaney (fifth in playoff standings)

  • Darlington (Round of 16): Lap 233 – Uncontrolled tire penalty while running ninth … Lap 318 – Brake issues led to Turn 3 spin while running 11th. Finished 22nd.

Chase Elliott (sixth in playoff standings)

  • Darlington (Round of 16): Lap 27 – Hit a tire from No. 53 team while leaving pit road, causing a fender rub that forced him to pit again from sixth … Lap 157 – Missed pit road during green flag pit cycle while running ninth … Lap 326 – Contact from racing Christopher Bell and Bubba Wallace leads to a flat tire and wreck in Turn 1, relegating him to 31st-place finish.
  • Richmond (Round of 16): Lap 181 – As race leader, Elliott backed up car during pit stop while car is jacked up, leading to multiple issues and a 36-second stop. Recovered to finish fourth.
  • Bristol (Round of 16): Lap 130 – Pit road speeding penalty; was running third prior to stops … Lap 467 – Made contact with Kevin Harvick while racing for the lead, cutting his left front tire and forcing green flag pit stop that ends his chances for a win. Exchanged words with Harvick after the race. Finished 25th.

Joey Logano (seventh in playoff standings)

  • Bristol (Round of 16): Lap 44 – Right rear brake cooling hose came loose during pit stop, causing him to fall from sixth to 23rd. Recovered to finish 11th.
  • Las Vegas (Round of 12): Lap 29 – Pitted second time for loose lug nuts on left rear tire; restarted 31st, would’ve been 10th. Finished 11th.

William Byron (ninth in playoff standings)

  • Darlington (Round of 16): Lap 16 – Gets into Alex Bowman after he has a flat tire while running 11th, leaving right-side damage … Lap 199 – Crashes out after losing a left front tire entering Turn 1 while running seventh and hitting the wall. Finished 34th.
  • Las Vegas (Round of 12): Started from the rear after failing inspection twice … Lap 225 – Suffered flat right rear tire while running fifth under green. Finished 18th.

Kevin Harvick (10th in playoff standings)

  • Darlington (Round of 16): Unscheduled green flag pit stop for a loose wheel while running sixth at Lap 268. Recovered to finish fifth.

Alex Bowman (11th in playoff standings)

  • Darlington (Round of 16): Lap 16 – Brushed the wall and suffered a flat tire while running eighth, collecting William Byron … Lap 49 – Left rear tire caught on fire on pit road. Finished 26th.
  • Las Vegas (Round of 12): Lap 214 – Had to pit a second time for a flat left rear tire. Finished 22nd.

Christopher Bell (12th in playoff standings)

  • Darlington (Round of 16): Lap 162 – Took damage to the nose from hitting debris as the leader … Lap 253 – Unscheduled pit stop under green for a vibration. Finished 20th.
  • Bristol (Round of 16): Lap 474 – Forced to pit under green for a flat right side tire while running eighth. Finished 29th.
  • Las Vegas (Round of 12): Lap 26 – Right front damage after making contact with Kurt Busch entering pit road while running 16th … Lap 82 – Pits before pit road is open to continue working on right front damage … Lap 87 – Failed to beat pace car off pit road and lost a lap. Finished 24th.