playoff grid

Cup playoff grid: Truex, Harvick tied; Bowyer, Almirola in trouble ahead of Texas

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Joey Logano became the first driver to clinch a spot in the championship four with his win Sunday at Martinsville Speedway.

Where does that leave the seven remaining playoff drivers with two races left in the Round of 8?

Above the cutline are the usual suspects: Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick.

Busch is the safest with a 46-point advantage over the cutline. Truex and Harvick follow with a tie at 4,083 points, 25 above the cutline.

Ahead of this weekend’s race at Texas Motor Speedway, Kurt Busch is the first driver below the cutline (-25 points).

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver’s best Texas finish in the three races since it was repaved was seventh in the spring.

Chase Elliott follows at 31 points behind the cutline. Since the Texas repave, Elliott hasn’t finished better than eighth.

After he spun on Lap 457 from contact with Jimmie Johnson on Sunday, Clint Bowyer placed 21st, the first car a lap down. He’s 42 points behind the cutoff going into Texas. His best finish there since the repave was ninth in the spring.

Aric Almirola is last on the grid. After placing 11th at Martinsville, Almirola is 50 points back from the final transfer spot. He hasn’t finished better than 15th since the Texas repave. He crashed in the spring.

 

 

Sweet dreams & nightmares: Cup playoff outlook for Talladega

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The Monster Mile is in the rearview mirror of Cup playoffs teams, but the real beast of the second round of the playoffs is in Talladega, Alabama.

The second race of the Round of 12 takes the Cup Series and the remaining playoff drivers to the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway.

Here’s a look at the playoff grid and which drivers can sleep peacefully and those who are probably staring at the ceiling in despair ahead of the 1000Bulbs.com 500 (2 p.m. Sunday on NBC).

Who could sleep through 40 cars roaring by at Talladega?

Chase Elliott

Though he’s fifth in the point standings, the Hendrick Motorsports driver is in the green, advancing to the third round of the playoffs with his Dover win. He’ll look to improve on his third-place finish at Talladega in April.

Who is getting a full eight hours of sleep Saturday night?

Kevin Harvick (+68 points above cutoff) and Kyle Busch (+63)

Harvick earned himself two extra playoff points at Dover, giving him a total of 52. It would take an early catastrophe at Talladega for a dent to be put in his second-round plans.

The same goes for Busch, who finished eighth in Dover after a day filled with track bar problems. His Richmond win remains his only result better than seventh in the last seven races. In his last eight Talladega starts, his only finishes in the top 10 are second (spring 2016) and third (spring 2017).

Who is probably flinching at each mention of Talladega?

Martin Truex Jr. (+36)

The Furniture Row Racing driver hasn’t won in 11 races and has only three top fives in that span. He’d like a little boost heading into Kansas, but Talladega hasn’t been kind to him. He has DNFs in his last four starts there – three for wrecks – and the last of his two career top fives there came in the spring 2015 race.

Who is likely looking forward to Talladega?

Joey Logano (+31) and Brad Keselowski (+21)

After tying his career-best result at Dover (third), Logano is seeking to add to his career-best win total at Talladega (three). His only win this year came there and was his third in the last six Talladega races. Talladega is also the track Keselowski has won the most at (five times). He’s won three of the last eight races there, but crashed out in the spring.

Who will try to be his consistent self?

Kurt Busch (+21)

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver is winless in his 35 Talladega starts, but he came the closest to Victory Lane in the spring, finishing second to Logano. Entering this weekend, Busch has finished in the top 10 in 10 of the last 12 races.

Who is very, very nervous?

Ryan Blaney (+10)

Blaney stole a win on the Charlotte Roval to secure a spot in the Round of 12, but started the round with an 11th-place finish at Dover after only earning four stage points. He’s shown speed on restrictor-plate tracks, leading 118 laps in the Daytona 500 and 27 laps in this race last year, but he has wrecked out in four of the last six plate races.

Who will be haunted by Dover in their dreams all week?

Aric Almirola (-10), Clint Bowyer (-10), Kyle Larson (-12) and Alex Bowman (-34)

Almirola saw an almost guaranteed win disappear after his teammate, Bowyer, wrecked with less than 10 laps to go. Then Almirola started a multi-car wreck on the ensuing restart that eliminated Bowman.

Almirola and Bowyer have one thing going for them: They’ve won at Talladega before, Bowyer twice in Cup and Almirola once in Xfinity.

Not going for them: Bowyer’s wrecked in three of the last four plate races. Almirola has wrecked in both of this year’s Daytona races.

Larson enters Talladega having not earned any stage or playoff points at Dover and finishing 12th. He’s never finished in the top five in nine Talladega starts or 10 Daytona starts.

Bowman will need to keep his nose clean all day or simply go out and win to keep his playoffs chances alive.

Below is the full playoff grid.

Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin on playoff bubble ahead of Phoenix

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Then there was one.

Five Cup drivers have one race to decide the last spot in the championship four at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

They will battle for it Sunday at Phoenix Raceway in the Can-Am 500 (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC). The only drivers safe are Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr.

Brad Keselowski leads the five drivers still eligible for the final spot. Currently in the top four, he leads Denny Hamlin by 19 points after finishing fifth at Texas.

Ryan Blaney is close on Hamlin’s heels, trailing him by three points.

It’s a much more dire scenario for the Hendrick Motorsports drivers of Chase Elliot and Jimmie Johnson. Elliott (-49) and Johnson (-51) are in must-win situations after the first two races of the Round of 8.

Of the five remaining drivers, Johnson (four) and Hamlin (one) have victories at the 1-mile track.

Below is the full playoff grid.

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Kevin Harvick on playoff bubble after Martinsville

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After a chaotic race at Martinsville Speedway to open the third round of the NASCAR Cup playoffs, the only drivers breathing easy are race-winner Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr (+67) and Brad Keselowski (+29).

The rest of the eight playoff drivers are in dangerous positions with two races left to determine the championship four at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Kevin Harvick is in the final transfer spot after finishing fifth at Martinsville. He is only three points in the final four, while Jimmie Johnson is the first driver out.

The driver in the biggest hole is Chase Elliott, who is in eighth, 26 points back from the final transfer spot after his late-race accident with Denny Hamlin relegated him to a 27th-place finish.

Below is the full playoff leaderboard following Sunday’s race.

Also, here’s the grid covering all rounds of the playoffs to date:

William Byron tops Xfinity playoff grid to start second round

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The second round of the Xfinity Series playoffs begins this weekend when the series heads to Kansas Speedway for the Kansas Lottery 300.

Following an elimination race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the series and the eight remaining playoff drivers are coming off an off week for the first time in months.

Those eight drivers are led by JR Motorsports’ William Byron, Justin Allgaier and Elliott Sadler. The three drivers have been at the top of the standings since the second race of the first round.

There was a minor adjustment after the Charlotte race. Matt Tifft was penalized 10 driver points for his car failing post-race inspection. But due to the reset in points, it had no bearing on his placement in the playoffs.

Tifft is eighth in the standings and trails Ryan Reed by one point. The bottom four drivers – Cole Custer, Brennan Poole, Reed and Tifft – are each separated by one point.

Here’s the full playoff grid.