The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs standings got quite the shake-up when the “Big One” hit with 17 laps to go Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Sixteen cars were collected in a wreck that involved six of the 12 remaining NASCAR Playoffs contenders.
The wreck on Lap 171 saw the No. 38 Ford of David Ragan spin while in traffic, causing significant damage to the No. 17 Ford of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and the No. 18 Toyota of Kyle Busch, among several others.
Other playoff drivers involved in the incident included the the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford of Kevin Harvick, the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota of Martin Truex Jr., the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Matt Kenseth and the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet of Jimmie Johnson; Harvick and Kenseth both were able to continue.
Truex Jr. accepted responsibility for the incident — he’s already guaranteed a spot in the Round of 8 by virtue of his win at Charlotte last weekend to open the Round of 12.
“Just was trying to get to the end and get some track position and try to get toward the front and have a good day and ended up causing a wreck, so I hate it for everybody,” Truex said. “We definitely had nothing to lose today, but at the same time you don’t want to be the person that causes others problems. Even though I feel like I’ve never been that guy here before it looks like today I was, so I hate it for all of those guys and all of their teams.”
Daniel Suarez was in the lead at the time of the incident — ahead of the colliding cars — and did not sustain any damage. Other cars involved in the incident included the Nos. 3 (Austin Dillon), 10 (Danica Patrick), 13 (Ty Dillon), 32 (Matt DiBenedetto), 34 (Landon Cassill), 75 (Brendan Gaughan), 88 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) and 95 (Michael McDowell). Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 was among the cars able to continue, and he would finish seventh.
“I really haven’t seen the replay, I was just running up the bottom there and the 38 ended up right in front of us,” said Stenhouse Jr., a pre-race favorite. “It was a bummer. We were working on getting our track position back. We felt good in the first run and got hung out there at the end of the second stage and were just working on our track position.”
Kyle Busch was among the drivers most affected. He dropped three spots in the standings following his 27th-place finish and now sits seven points below the transfer cut-off line. Kenseth (ninth place) and Stenhouse Jr. (10th place) also sit below the cutoff line.
Johnson currently holds the final transfer spot with just one race remaining in the Round of 12.
“I had no clue what happened,” Busch said. “I just saw (David Ragan) get sideways above me and then he came across my back and I missed him and he must have got the 48 (of Johnson), and the 48 shot up right across in front of us. I never saw him. I wish I would’ve seen him a little bit down there. I could’ve shot to the apron and tried to miss him, but unfortunately we just got messed up in that deal.”
The points days for those playoff drivers involved in the “Big One” was somewhat mitigated by a pair of wrecks that followed and took out fellow playoff drivers Ryan Blaney, Harvick and Elliott.