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Playoff Pulse: Analyzing the field after Talladega

After the second race of the Round of 12 in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, here’s a brief look at the playoff picture. There’s just one race remaining in the Round of 12 before the field is whittled to eight, with four drivers eliminated from the postseason after the Oct. 10 race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

Winner

Bubba Wallace. Wallace earned his first career NASCAR Cup Series victory in Monday’s rain-shortened race at Talladega Superspeedway, which also serves as the first win for the 23XI Racing organization co-owned by basketball legend Michael Jordan and Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin. Wallace is not among the 12 playoff drivers.

RELATED: Race results | At-track photos

Who’s hot

Brad Keselowski. Keselowski’s second-place finish at Talladega bumped him up from four points above the elimination line after Las Vegas to fourth in the playoff standings, 20 points ahead.

Joey Logano. Like his Team Penske teammate Keselowski, Logano also moved up massively in the playoff standings. Logano finished third at Talladega, which bumped him up to third in the rankings heading into the Charlotte Roval, 21 points above the elimination line. The No. 22 driver entered Talladega just six points ahead.

Who’s not

Alex Bowman. The No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports driver crashed out on Lap 98 of the rain-shortened event at Talladega after being tagged in the back bumper by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. while battling for the lead. Bowman is now last in the Round of 12 standings, 52 points below the elimination line. It’s a must-win situation for him at the Charlotte Roval.

William Byron. Byron also wasn’t able to get out of Talladega unscathed. The No. 24 driver crashed on Lap 116 after contact with Ryan Preece in a multi-car incident. Byron is now 44 points back and in a similar situation with teammate Bowman.

BUBBLE WATCH

Rank Driver Points to cutoff
5. Martin Truex Jr. +20
6. Ryan Blaney +15
7. Chase Elliott +9
8. Kyle Busch +9
——– ELIMINATION LINE ———
9. Kevin Harvick -9
10. Christopher Bell -28
11. William Byron -44
12. Alex Bowman -52

Next race

The NASCAR Cup Series travels to the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval for the Bank of America ROVAL 400 next Sunday (2 p.m. ET on NBC/NBC Sports App, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Who it favors

Chase Elliott. The No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet driver has just a nine-point cushion on the elimination line, but luckily for him, we’re going to a road course. Elliott has earned the victory in the past two races at the Charlotte Roval and finished sixth in his first attempt in 2018. On top of that, the defending series champion has seven total road-course victories, with his last coming at Road America in July.

Who it hurts

Kyle Busch. After a 27th-place finish at Talladega, Busch is tied with Elliott in the playoff standings, nine points above the elimination line. But the Charlotte Roval has not been kind to the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing driver. The 2019 champion owns finishes of 32nd, 37th and 30th there. All four drivers below the line — Kevin Harvick, Christopher Bell, William Byron and Alex Bowman — have all shown prowess on road courses, so another result like that just won’t cut it for Busch.

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