NASCAR Playoffs recap: Cup Series, Round of 12

Drivers from the Round of 12 in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs are introduced at Texas Motor Speedway.
Jonathan Bachman
Getty Images

Editor’s note: With Champion’s Week in Nashville ongoing, will look back at every playoff round of the 2023 season in all three national series.

Race 1: Texas Motor Speedway, Sept. 24

Winner: William Byron

Key highlights: Playoff driver Bubba Wallace snagged the Busch Light Pole Award and led a race-high 111 laps in the Round of 12 opener. Two-time champion Kyle Busch was running inside the top 10 early but crashed in Turn 1 near the end of Stage 1. Martin Truex Jr. finished the stage 12th but was tagged from the rear and spun after the stage. A late speeding penalty put Blaney to the rear after running inside the top five, and the No. 12 Ford later crashed out due to an incident ahead of him. Kyle Larson, who led 99 laps, was fighting Wallace side-by-side for the lead in Turn 1 when his car broke loose, spun and collided with the SAFER barrier late to end his day. William Byron capitalized on the ensuing restart to pass both Wallace and Chase Briscoe to score the victory and advance to the Round of 8.

Full race recap: William Byron surges late at Texas, seals Round of 8 spot, Hendrick Motorsports’ 300th win

At-track photos: Best pictures from Texas

William Byron does a burnout at Texas
Jonathan Bachman | Getty Images

Race 2: Talladega Superspeedway, Oct. 1

Winner: Ryan Blaney

Key highlights: Postseason hopes for Ross Chastain took a hit on the final lap of Stage 1 when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ran out of fuel just ahead of Kyle Busch. Busch moved left to avoid the slowing No. 47 Chevrolet and clipped Chastain, sending Chastain spinning into the SAFER barrier while Christopher Bell collected nose damage. Brad Keselowski, the 2012 Cup champion, triggered the “Big One” exiting the tri-oval with 27 laps to go when an errant push to Carson Hocevar spun the rookie driver, collecting at least eight cars and ending Keselowski’s day prematurely. On the final lap, Ryan Blaney used a push from Riley Herbst to dart from right to left in front of William Byron and alongside Kevin Harvick for the lead. Blaney scored the victory, his second of the year, to lock into the Round of 8 for the fifth time in his career.

Full race recap: Ryan Blaney scores clutch Talladega win to lock into Round of 8

At-track photos: Best pictures from Talladega

Ryan Blaney performs a burnout after winning the NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway
Meg Oliphant | Getty Images

Race 3: Charlotte Motor Speedway road course, Oct. 8

Winner: AJ Allmendinger

Key highlights: Entering the weekend two points beneath the elimination line, Tyler Reddick stormed to 23XI Racing’s second pole in three weeks and led each of the first 27 laps to win Stage 1 with teammate Bubba Wallace just behind him. A spin during the final stage by Denny Hamlin ended his day when he was contacted in the right rear by Mike Rockenfeller, breaking the right-rear toe link. Kyle Busch entered in a must-win scenario and restarted on the front row with 10 laps to go but ultimately finished third as AJ Allmendinger, a non-playoff driver, nabbed the win. Kyle Larson overcame a practice crash to advance, while Ross Chastain, Bubba Wallace, Brad Keselowski and Busch were ousted.

Full race recap: AJ Allmendinger holds off William Byron for emotional Charlotte Roval victory

At-track photos: Best pictures from Charlotte

Drivers eliminated: Ross Chastain, Bubba Wallace, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch.

AJ Allmendinger celebrates in Victory Lane at the Charlotte Roval
Jared C. Tilton | Getty Images