Following a long, eventful and controversial run of the YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday, October 4, there were two things that Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano all concurred on. The first was making the most of their long runs at Talladega despite being involved in separate incidents of their own and emerging with battered race cars. The second was setting their sights on next Sunday’s Playoff elimination race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval with stable points cushions above the top-eight cutline as all four try to retain their titles hopes for this season.
For Harvick, he started in fifth place and led a total of two laps throughout the race, but he kept his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Mustang towards the rear of the field to avoid the carnage ensuing throughout the race. It was not until the race was sent into overtime where Harvick was in position to notch a strong result within the top 10 and place himself in a comfortable cushion for next weekend’s race at Charlotte. His conservative race went away during the first overtime attempt, however, when he was collected in a multi-car wreck. Despite the damage, he continued. Settling at the rear of the pack for a third overtime attempt, Harvick limped across the line in 22nd place, but he gained two spots to 20th place after Matt DiBenedetto and Chris Buescher were both penalized and demoted from top-10 runs due to double yellow line penalties.
With his 20th-place result, Harvick is 68 points above the top-eight cutline entering the second Playoff elimination race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, thus giving him a stable cushion of transferring to the Round of 8 in the Playoffs.
“We tried to take care of our Jimmy John’s Ford Mustang most of the day and wound up starting fourth on one of the restarts toward the end and wound up part of the attrition for the day,” Harvick said on NBC. “Looking up and down pit road, it doesn’t look like there’s very many cars that don’t have damage. We need to try to run well just to put ourselves in a good position for next year since we’re gonna come back with the same rules package and things. Obviously, you want to run good. Winning the race would be great as well, so that’s always the goal.”
For Brad Keselowski, he started in seventh place and he led two laps early in the race while he contended towards the front of the pack. His race nearly took a turn for the worse when he was involved in a multi-car wreck on the frontstretch on Lap 109. With little damage reported to his No. 2 Discount Tire Ford Mustang, Keselowski rallied and went on to lead four additional laps for the remainder of the race. He also racked up a bevy of stage points by finishing in the top five in both stages. Despite having a car in contention of winning while battling with his Penske teammates, he was involved in a late incident during the second overtime attempt after being hit by a spinning Bubba Wallace and he spun out on the final lap following contact with former teammate Tyler Reddick.
Despite being scored in 18th place on the final scoreboard and with a damaged No. 2 Ford, Keselowski is 41 points above the top-eight cutline entering next weekend’s race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.
“I hope Tony Stewart is watching because he would be proud,” Keselowski said on NBC. “We wrecked every car in the field and I wrecked four times in somebody else’s mess. This rules package just has everybody so on top of each other. Runs are just so fast and everybody wants to block and the runs are too fast to block and causes a lot of wrecks, but we made it through somewhat okay, I guess. We finished 18th and scored a lot of stage points, got a decent points cushion going into the Roval, but that’s gonna be a madhouse because there are a lot of cars next week that are gonna need a big race. Hopefully, we just get through there with a solid day with the Discount Tire Ford and move on.”
For Martin Truex Jr., who started in third place, the majority of Sunday’s race at Talladega went well for him as he led a total of six laps and won the second stage. Despite having a car to contend for the win in the final laps and while racing with his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, Truex’s race went away during the first overtime attempt when he was involved in a multi-car wreck along with teammate Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick. Though he lost two laps in the process of having the damage to his No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry repaired, Truex was able to cross the finish line in 23rd place.
With his 23rd-place result, Truex is 32 points above the top-eight cutline entering next weekend’s race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, an event where he nearly won in 2018 until he was involved in a final lap altercation with Jimmie Johnson.
“It was textbook, as perfect as Talladega could go for us,” Truex said on NBC. “Just nowhere to go obviously in that last wreck. Proud of the effort, strong car. We wanted to get stage points and we got a stage win, that was a nice little bonus. Had fun up until the crash. Just wrong place, wrong time. Wish we could have ran until the end. We had a really fast Bass Pro Toyota…Go to the Roval and have some fun next week. I feel like we can go there and win. That’s what we’re gonna try to do.”
For Logano, who started in eighth place, the majority of his run on Sunday at Talladega went very well as he led three laps and finished in second place in the first stage. In the second stage, however, he was assessed a penalty prior to the stage’s conclusion following contact with Matt DiBenedetto, where he forced DiBenedetto below the double yellow line on the backstretch. Despite the penalty, Logano muscled his way back to the front and kept himself in contention at the front as he led a race-high 45 laps. While Logano appeared to have a race-winning car established as he prevented runs from overtaking him on both lanes, his race went away during the first overtime attempt when he forced Chase Elliott below the double yellow line entering Turn 4, though Elliott was able to take the lead. Placed in a three-wide situation and getting shuffled back entering the tri-oval, Logano’s chances of winning all but evaporated when he was clipped by Kyle Busch and was involved in a multi-car wreck. Shortly after, Logano was informed that he was being penalized a second time for forcing Elliott below the double yellow line. Following a red flag period due to the wreck, however, Logano was unable to continue as he was pushed back to the garage by a wrecker.
Despite concluding his run in 26th place and with a DNF, Logano retains the eighth and final transfer spot to the Round of 8 by 21 points over Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon entering next weekend’s Playoff elimination race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.
“We had a lot of speed in our Shell/Pennzoil Mustang car,” Logano said in the infield care center on NBC. “It was fast and it was up towards the front the whole race, leading a lot of laps. We were right where we wanted to be at the end of the race and [Elliott] had a huge run. I probably shouldn’t have tried to block it. He was so fast and I lost a lot of momentum when I tried to block that, and that gave [William Byron] a big run and then I got in the middle and then I got in the soup and the next thing that happens is they all crashed, so it’s gonna be a tough week next week.”
Harvick, Keselowski, Truex and Logano, along with their fellow Cup Series competitors, will return for next weekend’s series race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval on Sunday, October 11, at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC.