Playoff Pulse: Round of 8 set after Charlotte

Four drivers were eliminated from the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs after Sunday’s race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, as the postseason field was trimmed from 12 drivers to eight.


Kyle Larson. Larson muscled past Denny Hamlin on the final restart of the race, rallying from early electrical trouble that at one point saw him beneath the elimination line. That comeback propelled the No. 5 team to its seventh win of 2021.

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Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing
Christopher Bell, Joe Gibbs Racing
William Byron, Hendrick Motorsports
Alex Bowman, Hendrick Motorsports


Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports: 4,065 points
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing: 4,030 points
Martin Truex Jr., Joe Gibbs Racing: 4,029 points
Ryan Blaney, Team Penske: 4,024 points
Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing: 4,023 points
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports: 4,022 points
Joey Logano, Team Penske: 4,013 points
Brad Keselowski, Team Penske: 4,008 points


Kyle Larson. Larson wasn’t in a must-win situation, but his No. 5 team was vulnerable after a 10th-place run at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and a dismal 37th-place run at Talladega Superspeedway. A victory at the Roval sends his momentum skyrocketing into a round that should fit his team’s best capabilities.

Denny Hamlin. Hamlin locked his way into the Round of 8 with a win at Las Vegas, which was also the most recent 1.5-mile track before finishing seventh at Talladega. With finishes of first, seventh and fifth, Hamlin carries a hot hand in search of his first championship.


Alex Bowman. Bowman’s luck never turned around after a costly speeding penalty at Las Vegas. Talladega brought an untimely crash and early exit, sending him into must-win territory entering the Roval. Electrical issues ruined any hopes of advancing into the next round despite rebounding to finish 10th.

William Byron. Byron got caught on the wrong side of pit strategy at Las Vegas before pit-road penalties took him out of contention. Like his teammate Bowman, wrecking at Talladega put emphasis on the Roval, where he led 30 laps before finishing 11th.


The Round of 8 opens at Texas Motor Speedway with the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 at 2 p.m. ET next Sunday (NBC/NBC Sports App, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Who it favors

Kyle Larson. Larson was the winner of the NASCAR All-Star Race at Texas in June and has collected points wins at Las Vegas and Charlotte this season, both 1.5-mile tracks.

Who it hurts?

Martin Truex Jr. Despite a runner-up finish at Texas one year ago, the track hasn’t always been kind to the 2017 champion and finished 29th in the spring race of 2020.