The NASCAR Cup Series drivers faced Kansas Speedway on October 24 in the second of three races in the round of eight. Kyle Larson won for the ninth time and maintained his place at the top of the points standings. However, tire problems and collisions with the wall completely changed the rest of the standings.
Several drivers faced problems during the race. Brad Keselowski fell several laps after repeated pit trips, while Kyle Busch hit the wall and caused extensive damage to the side of No.18. Ryan Blaney finished the day early after another driver took him hit the wall, which opened up an opportunity for Chase Elliott to take a big step forward.
The current playoff photo features Larson as the only driver with a secure place in the Championship Four. His teammate, Elliott, is now in second with 34 points positive after coming into the weekend from Kansas eight points below the cut line. Denny Hamlin is third 32 points behind while teammate Busch is one point above the cut line.
While Elliott and Hamlin are in the best position among the drivers looking to advance to the championship race, Busch will enter the playoff race at Martinsville in a fierce battle with three other drivers. Blaney is just one point below the cut line, Martin Truex Jr. is three below and Keselowski is six below. Joey Logano is in the worst position 26 points below the cut line.
Non-qualifying driver disrupted Blaney’s strong run
The # 12 Penske Ford Mustang team driver entered the Kansas race in a solid position to reach the Championship Four for the first time in his career. He was 17 points above the cut line after the Texas Motor Speedway race on Oct. 17, and he spent much of the Kansas race recovering from early problems.
Blaney landed the top 10 on the final leg and looked to be within range of his sixth top 10 in the playoffs, but another driver disrupted his day. Austin Dillon broke away on lap 224, slipped on the track and struck the left rear wing of Blaney’s stock car.
No.12 hit the wall and stuck there for several seconds. Blaney was able to withdraw his stock car and head for the pits. He was unable to continue in the race and finished the day 37th overall, falling below the cut line in the process.
“Finishing 37th was no fun” Blaney told NBC Sports after leaving the infield care center. “We didn’t have a great day, but we did a good job of fighting and getting back into the top 10. Just being knocked out when you have a lot of room sucks, so it’s very unfortunate. . “
Truex and Keselowski are within reach of unexpected returns
Heading to Kansas, three former champions were seated in unfavorable positions. Logano was 43 points below after his engine expired in Texas while Truex was 22 points below after contact with the wall. Keselowski, meanwhile, finished fourth overall but fell just 16 points below the cut-off line to 15.
Based on those past races, the trio seemed out of reach for a playoff spot. However, Truex and / or Keselowski could overtake Busch for the final transfer point in Martinsville. No. 19 Toyota driver Joe Gibbs Racing is just three points out of the championship four after a seventh place finish in Kansas.
Truex will now head to a track where he has won several victories in recent seasons. He won the playoff race at Martinsville in 2019, as well as the June 2020 race, before finishing 22nd in the 2020 elimination race. Truex also won the April 2021 race, his second of four trips to Victory Lane during the season.
Keselowski didn’t have the strongest day in Kansas with a 17th place and no stage points due to a collision with Truex and picking up debris on the grille of Team Penske Ford No.2 . However, he remains within six points of another appearance in the Championship Four after struggling with speed for much of the 2021 season.
Keselowski will now join his peers at Martinsville, a track where he has won twice before. He reached Victory Lane in the spring races in 2017 and 2019. Keselowski finished fourth at Martinsville in the 2020 playoff race and reached the championship four by points of points.
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