A look at the winners and losers coming out of Monday’s rain-shortened NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway…
Bubba Wallace – The biggest move Wallace made in claiming his first career Cup win Monday was the one he didn’t make. On Lap 116, Wallace stayed low down the backstretch to keep Brad Keselowski behind him, choosing not to block Joey Logano on the second line. Moments later, Ryan Preece was pushed into Logano’s rear bumper and then the wall to trigger the caution. The threatening rain finally fell and ultimately ended the race in Wallace’s favor.
Brad Keselowski – Continues his solid playoff run with a second-place finish and a race-high 52 points at Talladega (including 17 stage points). He entered Monday on the cutline to advance to the Round of 8, nursing a four-point cushion. Now, he holds a 20-point cushion and some semblance of control going into this weekend’s elimination race on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.
Joey Logano – Third-place finish and 51 points at Talladega leave him with a 21-point cushion above the cutline as the Roval beckons; he was only up six points entering Monday. The finish is his best since a third-place showing at Circuit of the Americas in May. Look out for him on the Roval, where he finished second last year on his way to the Championship 4.
Chris Buescher – Buescher claimed a Stage 1 win, scored points in both stages and finished a season-best sixth on Monday. It’s also his best result since finishing fifth last year on the Daytona International Speedway road course.
Kevin Harvick – Like Keselowski, Harvick kept a nice postseason going by finishing eighth. He’s finished no worse than ninth in the five playoff races so far. Unlike Keselowski, he’s entering the Roval below the cutline. He sits nine points behind Kyle Busch, who holds the last transfer spot. Still, the 10 stage points that Harvick gained Monday will give him a legitimate opportunity at going to the next round.
Anthony Alfredo – Rookie quietly finished 10th to earn his first career top-10 finish at the Cup level.
Christopher Bell – Needing to rebound after a poor showing at Las Vegas, Bell’s fifth-place finish did little to change his playoff outlook. He faces a 28-point deficit to the cutline and likely will need to win at the Roval next week to move on. Following Monday’s race, he said that his failure to score points in Stage 1 was “a big turning point” for him. Time will tell if it leads to the end of his postseason.
William Byron – Finished 36th after being collected by a spinning Ryan Preece in the day’s final wreck. With no stage points scored Monday, Byron lost a brutal 40 points to the cutline thanks to the DNF. He’ll be down 44 markers going to the Roval.
Kyle Larson – Wrong place, wrong time for Larson. Contact between Byron and Justin Allgaier led to the latter severely damaging Larson’s car and ruining his hopes for a good finish. But while Larson ended up in 37th place, he still holds a 22-point cushion above the cutline for next week.
Alex Bowman – Saddled with a 38th-place finish after being eliminated in a multi-car crash at Lap 98. He lost 39 points to the cutline on Monday and now has a 52-point deficit, worst among the remaining playoff drivers. Bowman has been solid on the Roval, carrying an average finish of 4.7 over his three starts there. But 4.7 won’t cut it next week. Only first place will do.