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.

Saturday NASCAR schedule at Talladega Superspeedway


Both the Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series will race Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway.

Cup cars will start the day’s action by qualifying for Sunday’s playoff race, followed by the Truck playoff race and then the Xfinity playoff race.

Talladega Superspeedway (Cup, Xfinity and Truck)

Weekend weather

Saturday: Sunny. High of 78.

Saturday, Oct. 1

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. — Cup Series
  • 9:30 a.m. — Truck Series
  • 1 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 10:30 a.m. – Noon — Cup Series qualifying (NBC Sports app, Motor Racing Network, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio)
  • 12:30 p.m. — Truck Series race (94 laps, 250 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 4 p.m. — Xfinity Series race (113 laps, 300 miles; USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Talladega Xfinity starting lineup: Austin Hill wins pole


TALLADEGA, Ala. — Austin Hill will lead the field to the green flag Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway after scoring his first career Xfinity Series pole.

Hill won the pole Friday with a lap of 182.036 mph. He will be joined on the front row by fellow playoff contender Ty Gibbs (181.981 mph).

MORE: Talladega Xfinity starting lineup

Playoff drivers will start in seven of the top eight spots. The exception is Sheldon Creed, who will start third after a lap of 181.870 mph. Hill and Creed give Richard Childress Racing the first and third starting spots.

Justin Allgaier (181.529) qualified fourth and Brandon Jones (181.305) completed the top five. Noah Gragson, who has won four races in a row, starts sixth after a lap of 181.134 mph and is followed by playoff drivers Josh Berry (181.052) and AJ Allmendinger (180.932).

The Xfinity Series race is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET Saturday on USA Network.

Talladega Truck starting lineup: John Hunter Nemechek wins pole


TALLADEGA, Ala. — John Hunter Nemechek will start on the pole for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race.

Nemechek earned the pole with a lap of 178.767 mph.

Nemechek is one of four playoff drivers starting in the top six: Chandler Smith (second, 177.732 mph), Zane Smith (fourth, 177.061) and Ty Majeski (sixth, 176.744). Majeski clinched a spot in next month’s championship race at Phoenix with his Bristol win.

MORE: Talladega Truck starting lineup

Also qualifying in the top five were Carson Hocevar (177.068) in third and Matt Crafton (176.960) in fifth.

Failing to qualify are Tim Viens, Spencer Boyd, Jason White and Natalie Decker.

Saturday Talladega Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather


The second race of the opening round of the Xfinity playoffs takes drivers to Talladega Superspeedway.

Noah Gragson secured his spot in the next round by winning last weekend at Texas. Ryan Sieg holds the final transfer spot. Riley Herbst is the first driver below the cutline, one point behind Sieg. Also below the cutline are reigning series champion Daniel Hemric (-8 points), Brandon Jones (-12) and Jeremy Clements (-28).

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Talladega Superspeedway

(All times Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 4:09 p.m. … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 4:21 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 1 p.m. … Driver introductions are at 3:30 p.m. … The invocation will be given at 4 p.m. … The Brookwood High School choir will perform the anthem at 4:02 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 113 laps (300.58 miles) on the 2.66-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 25. Stage 2 ends at Lap 50.

TV/RADIO: USA Network will broadcast the race at 4 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 3:30 p.m. on USA Network. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. and also will stream at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Sunny with a high of 78 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Noah Gragson won and was followed by Jeffrey Earnhardt and AJ Allmendinger.