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Playoffs pulse: Analyzing the field after Talladega

After the second race of the Round of 12 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs race at Talladega Superspeedway, here’s a brief look at the playoff picture. There is one race remaining in the Round of 12 before the field is whittled to eight, with four drivers eliminated from the postseason following next week’s Kansas race on Oct. 20.

Winner

Ryan Blaney beat Ryan Newman in a photo finish, earning the win in one of the wildest races of the year. The victory also adds five playoff points to his total and locks him into the Round of 8. The Team Penske driver entered the race 12th among 12 drivers in the standings.

RELATED: Race results

Who’s hot

Denny Hamlin. Hamlin drove the middle portion of the race one lap down, but when ‘Big One’ after ‘Big One’ occurred, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver found himself at the front of the field. Unofficially, he finished third and is very comfortable heading into Kansas.

Joey Logano. With a car that looked like it had been through the ringer at your local short track, Logano’s heavily damaged No. 22 Ford limped to an official 11th-place finish. Staying on track was crucial for this group, who jumped above the cutline with a gritty effort.

Who’s not

William Byron. A late-race wreck ruined the day for the No. 24 team, one in which Byron was leading late while appearing poised to compete for his first win. Several playoff drivers had rough days, but it feels like a big missed opportunity for Byron, who dropped below the playoff cutline.

Clint Bowyer. Monday was devastating for the driver of the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. The veteran had plenty of speed and rocketed to the front of the field throughout the race, winning Stage 2 before a downed tire caused him to spin out with approximately 35 laps to go. The kicker: Bowyer’s car actually got stuck on the apron, his wheels barely off the ground due to the steep banking at Talladega. He was two laps down after getting cleared and stopping on pit road.

BUBBLE WATCH

Rank Driver Points to cutoff
5. Kyle Busch +41
6. Kevin Harvick +36
7. Brad Keselowski +20
8. Joey Logano +18
————— CUT-OFF LINE —————
9. Alex Bowman -18
10. Chase Elliott -22
11. Clint Bowyer -24
12. William Byron -27

Next race

The Monster Energy Series travels to Kansas Speedway to conclude the Round of 12 at the 1.5-mile facility on Oct. 20 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBC/NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Who it favors

Kevin Harvick. Taking just the last 10 Kansas races into account, Harvick’s two wins are tied for most in the series (along with Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano). He also has five top-five finishes in that span and a series-best 515 laps led. Kansas has become a staple track for Harvick and crew chief Rodney Childers.

Who it hurts

Clint Bowyer. This may be his home track, but Kansas has not been kind to Bowyer, whose 18.5 average finish over the last 10 races there ranks 10th of 12 playoff drivers. Bowman and Byron are worse, but have extenuating circumstances — Byron only has three starts here, and many of Bowman’s starts came before he drove for Hendrick Motorsports. The lone upside for Bowyer — he finished in the top five here earlier this year.