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October 1, 2023

Playoff Pulse: Tempering the postseason dozen after Talladega


After the fifth race of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, here’s a quick look at the playoff picture. The middle race of the Round of 12 has concluded at Talladega Superspeedway, with only the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course next Sunday remaining before the championship-eligible field is trimmed to eight.

WINNER

Ryan Blaney scored a dramatic and ultimately clutch victory on Sunday at Talladega, edging Kevin Harvick for the win by just 0.012 seconds to lock his way into the Round of 8. Blaney, who scored the Stage 1 victory earlier in the contest, now carries an additional six playoff points into the next stanza of the postseason thanks to his Alabama efforts.

RELATED: Race results | At-track photos: Talladega

WHO’S HOT?

Denny Hamlin. Hamlin bounced back from an early pit-road speeding penalty after falling off the lead lap and recovered for a fourth-place finish (third place after Harvick’s No. 4 Ford failed post-race inspection and was DQ’d). The result marks Hamlin’s second top-five result of the round after a fifth-place finish last week at Texas.

Christopher Bell. It was far from pretty, but a 14th-place finish at Talladega marked a day salvaged for the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team. Bell was involved in a Lap 162 crash and suffered significant front-end damage, but the team was able to repair the vehicle enough to keep it in contention and score a reasonable result. Bell leaves Talladega sitting third in the points standings, 22 points above the elimination line.

WHO’S NOT?

Ross Chastain. Chastain was the victim of Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s fuel stumble on the final lap of Stage 1, his No. 1 Chevrolet clipped by Kyle Busch as Busch attempted to dodge Stenhouse. Chastain was sent into the outside wall, and the damage ended his day, relegating him to a 37th-place finish with only one point gained. After entering Sunday sixth in the standings, 12 points above the elimination line, Chastain leaves Talladega 11th in points, 10 markers below the elimination line.

Brad Keselowski. Keselowski was ousted from the race after triggering a Lap 162 multicar crash. An errant push to Carson Hocevar through the tri-oval spun Hocevar into traffic, collecting Ty Gibbs and Austin Dillon. Dillon clipped Keselowski, whose car briefly became airborne before settling back onto the pavement. Keselowski bolstered his points total by winning Stage 2, adding 10 points to his total, but he exits Alabama eighth in the standings, two points above the provisional elimination line.

BUBBLE WATCH

RankDriverCutoff
5Chris Buescher19
6Martin Truex Jr17
7Kyle Larson15
8Brad Keselowski2
ELIMINATION LINE
9Tyler Reddick-2
10Bubba Wallace-9
11Ross Chastain-10
12Kyle Busch-26
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