Alejandro Alvarez | NASCAR Digital Media

Round of 8 elimination line tightens up as playoff drivers falter at Kansas

Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano all sit below the elimination line with one race to go in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 8.

Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway was another upheaval to the postseason, with multiple playoff drivers finding issues throughout the day, including Blaney, Truex, Keselowski and Kyle Busch.

What was looking like a top-10 day went sour for Blaney. Following a restart on Lap 224, Blaney was running the higher line in Turn 2 when Austin Dillon lost control of his No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet and slid into Blaney’s No. 12 Team Penske Ford. Blaney’s effort to save his machine resulted in him pounding the outside wall and heavy damage to his car. His crew were unable to make repairs and he was forced to retire from the race.

RELATED: Kansas race results | Playoff standings after Kansas

“We got run into from two lanes below me,’’ Blaney told NBC Sports. “I have no idea (why). Obviously it hurts. Finishing 37th is not fun. We didn’t have a great day but we did a good job of fighting back and getting back into the top 10 but then just got wiped out when we had plenty of room.

“It sucks. That was very unfortunate.’’

Going into Kansas, Blaney was second in the playoff standings and 17 points to the good, but a 37th-place result moved him back to fifth, just one point below the elimination line. One spot ahead of him is Kyle Busch, who sits one point to the good. But Kansas wasn’t good to him, either, as the 2019 champion earned a 28th-place finish following two brushes with the wall resulting in a pair of flat right-rear tires.

Busch, along with Blaney, Truex and Keselowski all suffered right-rear tire issues in the first stage of the event. Truex was able to recover the best of out of them all, scraping up a seventh-place run. After a disastrous crash last Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing driver made up ground in the standings and now sits just three points below the elimination line after Kansas.

RELATED: Blaney slams wall at Kansas | Truex suffers tire troubles after hitting wall

“You never quit fighting in these things and all you can do is the best you can do,” Truex said. “Just kept working on it and kept making adjustments and do what we could. We were able to get back on the lead lap there and take the wave around with the quick caution and battle from there.

Truex also expressed optimism for the Round of 8 finale next Sunday at Martinsville Speedway, where he has three victories, including this year’s Spring race.

“We’re going to have a good starting position now and good pit selection,” Truex said. “The place has been good to us. If we can get up there and win a couple stages and battle for the win, I think we’ll be able to get ourselves in. We’ll wait and see how it goes, you never know how these things are going to play out. Excited for the opportunity and thankful for everybody for all their hard work.”

For Penske’s two other drivers, Keselowski and Logano, finishes of 17th and ninth respectively still place them below the elimination line. But after their teammate’s misfortune, the deficits for both have shrunk. Keselowski is now just six points behind, while Logano has a 26-point hole to climb out of if he wants to make the Championship 4 at Phoenix Raceway.

“It is pretty far out still,” Logano said. “All things considered, it isn’t just that it is 20-something points out, but I am still eighth. I have three or four cars in front of me that I have to get in front of, assuming there isn’t a different winner. It is still pretty much a must-win situation. It would be far-fetched for it to happen. But hey, look at today. Maybe it could happen.”