The playoff drivers were very concerned about having to race in Talladega during the championship run and their concerns were soon realized. There were 11 caution flags, eight of them because of crashes, and three red flags. Of the 12 playoff divers, only four of them finished the race, and only 14 cars took the final green flag at the end of the race.
Brad Keselowski survived all the crashes and won the race, his fifth at Talladega. Denny Hamlin finished sixth on the lead lap, while Kyle Larson and Matt Kenseth finished one lap down in 13th and 14th place, respectively.
The remaining eight playoff drivers had their race ended by being involved in the many crashes. Jamie McMurray was involved in the first wreck, which occurred on lap 27. His playoff hopes took a big hit as he finished the race in 37th place and basically has to win in Martinsville, the last race in the round of 12.
Several other incidents occurred involving non-playoff drivers, but the dreaded “Big One” occurred with 17 laps to go. Playoff drivers Kyle Busch, Ricky Stenhouse, Jimmy Johnson, and Truex Jr., were all sent to the garage, while Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth were able to make repairs and continue the race.
This was the first red flag but not the last. In the remaining laps, two more incidents occurred resulting in red flags. Harvick, Kenseth, Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott were also sent to the garage.
Most of the fans like the restrictor plate races because of the wrecks. They definitely got their money’s worth last Sunday. It’s been quite some time since we have seen this kind of destruction. Only nine cars were able to race inside the lead draft at the conclusion of the race. Twenty-six cars failed to finish. It was a season high and the highest total for NASCAR’s playoff era.
For Kyle Busch, a second straight finish of 27th or worse in the Round of 12 has his playoff advancement in doubt for the cutoff race next weekend at Kansas Speedway. “We threw away a lot of it last week,” Busch said of playoff points. “This will probably put us right on the border and we’ll have to go to Kansas to have a good run.”
Because of wins in the first two races in the round of 12, Truex and Keselowski have automatically advanced. Larson, Harvick, Hamlin and Elliott just have to keep their noses clean and should advance. Blaney (+9) and Johnson (+7) are both on the plus side of the cutoff line but have to be aware of Busch (-7) and Kenseth (-8) who will be looking to gain enough points in order to advance.