A look at the winners and losers coming out of Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway…
Kyle Larson – He nearly destroyed his NASCAR career with one awful mistake. He then set out on a mission to grow as a human being and better understand the world around him. Now, after winning Sunday’s Round of 8 playoff opener, he has a shot to win the top prize in America’s most popular motorsport Nov. 7 in Phoenix.
William Byron – Finished second after being eliminated from the playoffs in the Round of 12. Earned his fourth top-two finish of the season, including a win at Homestead. Also contributed to Hendrick Motorsports’ sixth 1-2 finish of the season. Led 55 laps Sunday, a career-best at Texas. He only led 24 laps over his previous six starts there.
Christopher Bell – Rallied from two laps down to finish third, a solid result after he was eliminated from the playoffs in the Round of 12. He also finished third last fall at Texas for now-defunct Leavine Family Racing.
Brad Keselowski – Finished fourth in one of his better performances on 1.5-mile tracks this season. He only gained one point to the cutline (moving from -16 to -15), but was still optimistic about his hopes to make the Championship 4.
Ryan Blaney – Finished sixth and scored 17 critical stage points doing it. His 48 overall points scored was second-best among the playoff drivers on Sunday (winner Kyle Larson scored 58) and the most he’s scored in a race during these playoffs. Blaney started the Round of 8 one point above the cutline. He heads to this weekend’s race at Kansas Speedway with a 17-point cushion.
Tyler Reddick – Was up for a top-five finish but contact from Kevin Harvick on the race’s next-to-last restart led to him nursing the No. 8 car home to a ninth-place finish. He’s posted three top-10 finishes in the last four races since being eliminated from the playoffs in the Round of 16.
Martin Truex Jr. – The slightest of contact from Daniel Suarez was enough to send Truex hard into the Turn 4 wall with 15 laps to go. That relegated him to a 25th-place finish. A lack of pace all day meant no stage points as well. It adds up to a 22-point deficit to the cutline going to Kansas.
Joey Logano – The former Cup champion lost his engine with 36 laps to go and finished 30th. Logano also failed to score stage points, which left him at a 43-point deficit below the cutline. “I don’t know if it is a ‘holy crap’ moment – it is just a real letdown moment,” Logano said afterwards.
Alex Bowman – Swept up in a 15-car crash on the backstretch at Lap 31. While he was eliminated from the playoffs in the Round of 12, the seven-race postseason run has seen him post an average finish of 21st and just one top-five finish. He later dubbed it the “Playoffs. From. Hell.” on social media.