The opening race of the Round of 12 for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs had drivers at Dover International Speedway for the Drydene 400. Stages one and two were each 120 laps with Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. winning one stage apiece.
The last stage, 160 laps, was dominated by Kyle Larson who took home the checkered flag this past Sunday. His race included 154 laps led, 57 collected stage points, and he was able to grab those all-important 5 playoff points that he was able to carry with him into the Round of 8.
For other playoff drivers, their race didn’t go as smoothly.
Even before the green flag flew on Sunday, Joey Logano came down to pit road with a reported broken rear axel that eventually took him back to the garage. Though his crew was able to get it repaired, he finished 15 laps down in 34th. He found himself tied with William Byron for the final spot to make it into the Round of 8, but the tiebreaker went to Byron.
After qualifying 17th, Clint Bowyer found himself one lap down at a point during the race but was able to come back and finish no. 10. He doesn’t have any playoff points which places him as the second driver below the cutoff line by four points.
Chase Elliot blew a motor just eight laps into the race that resulted in a last-place finish of 38th. That was all just one week after his dominating performance at the Roval. His mechanical issues put him as the third driver below the cutoff line by 7 points.
As if Penske’s day couldn’t get any worse, Ryan Blaney’s race ended in the garage when he came down pit road with a reported suspension issue. Not being able to return to the race, he ends up as the 4th driver to not make the Round of 8, 22 points below the cutoff line.
As playoff drivers head to Talladega next weekend for the 1000Bulbs.com 500, some look to survive, others look to aggressively score stage points to make up their deficit. The last three Talladega fall races have an average number of cautions of 8.3. With three of the four drivers below the playoff cutline being former Talladega winners, could we see that average go up as they look to keep their playoff hopes alive?