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Playoffs pulse: Stacking the field after Charlotte

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After the fourth Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs race, and the first in the Round of 12, here’s a brief look at the playoffs picture. There are two races remaining in the Round of 12 before the field is whittled to eight, with four drivers eliminated from the postseason following Kansas on Oct. 22.

Winner

Martin Truex Jr. won on Oct. 8 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, clinching a spot in the Round of 8 of the playoffs. The win also gives him five playoff points to add to his total, which now sits at 64.

Who’s hot

Chase Elliott. Elliott started the playoffs hot, and he hasn’t faltered yet. One week after losing the lead late in a most agonizing of fashions, the Hendrick Motorsports driver led 12 laps and ran in the top five all day, finishing second and jumping to fourth in the standings in the process.

Kevin Harvick. Harvick had the fastest car for the majority of the afternoon at Charlotte. No win, but a third-place finish with 149 laps led seems to portend that a win is coming — and soon.

Who’s not

Brad Keselowski. One of the top performers in the Round of 16 surprisingly fell flat at Charlotte, with Keselowski struggling to keep pace with his fellow playoff drivers. His 15th-place finish, coupled with not finishing in the top 10 in either Stage 1 or Stage 2, dropped him from fourth place in the standings to 10th.

Kyle Busch. How quickly fortunes can change. Busch won the previous two races, and was running up front at Charlotte when he got into the outside wall hard on Lap 135. The resulting 29th-place finish puts added pressure on the Joe Gibbs Racing driver, who is sixth in the standings, heading into Talladega.

PHOTOS: All of the best images from Charlotte

BUBBLE WATCH

Rank Driver Points to cutoff
5. Denny Hamlin +13
6. Kyle Busch +12
7. Jimmie Johnson +8
8. Jamie McMurray +1
————— CUT-OFF LINE —————
9. Matt Kenseth -1
10. Brad Keselowski -2
11. Ryan Blaney -5
12. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -10

Next race

The Monster Energy Series travels to Talladega Superspeedway for a Sunday afternoon race on Oct. 15 (2 p.m. ET, NBC/NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Who it favors

Wins: Brad Keselowski (4), Jimmie Johnson (2), Jamie McMurray (2)
Average Finish: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (10.4), Brad Keselowski (14.9), Kevin Harvick (15.3), Chase Elliott (15.7)
Driver Rating: Chase Elliott (91.4), Brad Keselowski (88.7), Jimmie Johnson (88.1), Matt Kenseth (87.1)

Who it hurts

Fewest Top-10s in past 10 starts at track: Chase Elliott (1), Ryan Blaney (2), Kyle Larson (2)
Worst Average Finish: Ryan Blaney (21.3), Martin Truex Jr. (21.0), Kyle Busch (20.5)
Worst Driver Rating: Martin Truex Jr. (78.2), Jamie McMurray (80.8), Kyle Busch (80.9), Kyle Larson (81.0)

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