Playoff Pulse: Analyzing the field after Texas

After the first race in the Round of 12 in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, here’s a brief look at the playoff picture. There are two races left in the Round of 12 — at Talladega Superspeedway and the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course.

WINNER

Tyler Reddick continued the trend of non-playoff drivers winning playoff races as he took the checkered flag at Texas Motor Speedway. Reddick was eliminated from a run at the Cup Series championship during the Round of 16 after finishes of 35th and 25th at Kansas and Bristol, respectively. The win is Reddick’s third of the season, which is second-most of Cup drivers this season (Chase Elliott has four wins).

RELATED: Race Results | Cup schedule

WHO’S HOT?

William Byron. After a fruitless summer, Byron has found a sixth gear in the playoffs. He finished seventh at Texas, which is his fourth consecutive top-10 finish in as many playoff races. With two races left in the Round of 12, Byron will head to Talladega with a plus-17 advantage over the cutline.

Kyle Larson. Larson picked up his third consecutive top-10 run with a ninth-place finish at Texas and currently sits 16 points above the playoff cutline.

WHO’S NOT?

Chase Elliott. The first four races of the playoffs have been a mixed bag for the regular-season champion, and Texas didn’t help matters for the No. 9 team as Elliott crashed during Stage 2 on Lap 183, resulting in a 32nd-place finish. For Elliott to feel comfortable heading into the final race in the Round of 12, he’ll have to get out of Talladega with a good points day and avoid the calamity that comes with superspeedway racing. If he does that, he can clinch his spot a week later at the Charlotte Roval, where he’s won twice.

Christopher Bell. After having the most consistent first round of any of the Cup playoff drivers, Bell suffered multiple issues during the first half of Texas that resulted in his day ending on Lap 136. He entered the Round of 12 just four points above the cutline and will head to Talladega, where he only owns one top-five finish, 29 points beneath it.

BUBBLE WATCH

Rank Driver Cutoff
5. Ryan Blaney  +15
6. Denny Hamlin  +8
7. Daniel Suárez  +4
8. Chase Elliott  +4
——– ELIMINATION LINE ———-
9. Chase Briscoe  -4
10. Austin Cindric  -11
11. Christopher Bell  -29
12. Alex Bowman  -30

NEXT RACE

The Round of 12 continues Sunday, Oct. 2 at 2 p.m. ET with the YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway (NBC, NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

WHO IT FAVORS

Ross Chastain. No driver will have more confidence heading to Talladega than the track’s most recent winner as Chastain took the checkered flag in the spring. Compared to a handful of playoff drivers, Chastain escaped Texas with an 18-point cushion above the cutline, which should allow him more freedom in how he can race at the superspeedway.

WHO IT HURTS

Joey Logano. There’s no doubt the No. 22 Team Penske Ford always has speed on superspeedways, but as one of the more aggressive drivers at tracks like Talladega and Daytona, Logano has been on the wrong side of the leaderboard in the last five races at the 2.66-mile superspeedway with three DNFs and just one top-five finish. While Logano does have three wins at Talladega, his last one came in the spring of 2018.