Finally, At Talladega, A Cup Series Playoff Driver Wins A Cup Series Playoff Race

Well it finally happened – a playoff driver won a playoff race. And Chase Elliott did it in fine form, racing clean and hard right to the checkered flag.

It had a record number of lead changes, in a race where it was very hard to pass. The only real wreck was a multi-car spin that wasn’t all that serious.

The racing action was there from the drop of the green flag. Several drivers opted to hang out deeper in the field after slicing and dicing up front. Ryan Blaney won Stage 1 but then dropped back to hang out when the racing started to get wild. Denny Hamlin was second in Stage 1 gathering important points, but he too dropped back after intense racing. Chase Elliott won Stage 2 in clean racing that eventually proved to be the way the race was going to run to the checkers.

There was a ton of blocking that normally would end in a giant wreck eliminating a third of the field. But saner heads prevailed with drivers laying off of each other through the corners where most of the wrecking occurs due to poor timing pushing.

And while the cars were pretty much stacked up two by two for most of the race, there were a few times that a third line tried to get going but ultimately, the racing groove just didn’t allow for that which may be another reason there was no Big One. But if you were stuck back in the pack, you had little chance of advancing too much without some fast lane changes to catch someone who could push you.

The end of the race saw Ryan Blaney leading the way when a caution came out for Daniel Hemric stalling out on pit lane. It was a crazy dash to the finish with Elliott and Blaney trading the lead over and over and all the leader splitting up in the final stretch run where Elliott nosed out Blaney for the win that automatically sends him into the next round.

While the two-wide racing didn’t offer much in the way of wrecks, it did offer a lot of exciting blocking action up front between leaders as the low and high lines traded position over and over. The play by play call by Dale Jr. still is worth the price of admission to a race. NBC was smart to let him call these races and his expertise at Talladega added a lot to the excitement.

Good on ya, Mate

  • Chase Elliott (P1) for taking back the point lead
  • Ryan Blaney (P2) led 31 laps and might have been the eventual winner had it not been for that caution
  • Michael McDowell (P3) for another great finish with his improving team
  • Ross Chastain (P4) led 36 laps and didn’t driver anyone into the fence
  • Denny Hamlin (P5) led 20 laps and sits 4th in points
  • Erik Jones (P6) led 23 laps and looked to be the best pusher
  • Todd Gilliland (P7) led just one lap but ran up front much of the day
  • Daniel Suarez (P8) had a decent car and sits 7th in points heading to the Roval
  • Austin Cindric (P9) is racing to make the cut
  • Chase Briscoe (P10) and Cindric are racing which is the last to make the cut
  • Landon Cassill (P11) had a decent finish

So you had a bad day

  • Ty Gibbs (P37) was the early wreck
  • Harrison Burton (P36) said his hit to the rear wasn’t all that bad
  • Corey LaJoie (P35) had much higher hopes
  • Daniel Hemric (P34) sat stalled on pit road just missing the end of the race
  • Kevin Harvick (P29) had a speeding penalty that cost him his Top 5 position
  • Joey Logano (P28) came in the points leader, left in 5th
  • Christopher Bell (17) spun out in Stage 2 coming to pit and must win at the Roval

Alex Bowman was unable to race after his wreck last week gave him concussion symptoms. Bowman said that hit, which didn’t look all that bad, was the hardest of his career. These cars can take a beating and still race but it is leaving drivers dazed even with the SAFER barrier. There isn’t much room to put more padding around the drivers heads so the car will need some updating to have more crumple zones to expend the energy of a wreck. Padding and helmets can only do so much, the brain will still move around and smash against the skull in these high speed, sudden stop impacts.

We wish him and Kurt Busch all the best as they manage their way through the injuries.

Next up: The Roval

We have no idea how this new car will race the Roval so it could prove to be an interesting race to handicap. Chase Elliott has won two of the four races with Ryan Larson, Ryan Blaney each with one. Larson is the defending race winner. Elliott has finished out of the Top 10 just once. Elliott is also the best road course racer in the garage right now so he has to be one of the favorites to win. If Blaney can bring the speed he had at Talladega, he is a strong contender. Martin Truex, Jr. hasn’t been all that good on the Roval but he has won his share of road courses. Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin, Daniel Suarez, Chris Buescher and Tyler Reddick are also threats to win this weekend.

To all of our friends in Florida, we wish you all the best as you recover from Hurricane Ian. Godspeed to you all.

(Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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