TALLADEGA, Ala. – A former champion is on the brink and another former champion is facing elimination after Sunday’s Cup playoff race at Talladega.
The Round of 16 ends next weekend at the Charlotte Roval. Four drivers are eliminated there.
Former champion Brad Keselowski is on the verge. He was eliminated by a crash and finished 32nd at Talladega (after Kevin Harvick was disqualified because his car failed post-race inspection and lost his second place).
Keselowski would be below the cutline if he hadn’t won a stage on Sunday. That gave him 10 extra points.
“I’m glad we were able to win the stage,” he said. “That certainly helps our points at least a little, but not as much as if we were able to finish the race.”
Those below the cutline heading to the Roval are: Tyler Reddick (-2 points), Bubba Wallace (-3), Ross Chastain (-10) and two-time Cup champion Kyle Busch (-26).
Keselowski was caught in an accident on the third stage at Talladega
Playoff driver Brad Keselowski and others are involved in an accident with 27 laps to go at Talladega that ends his day and puts him in a difficult position below the cutline ahead of the Round of 12 cutoff race.
Reddick finished 16th on Sunday.
“We really didn’t have the cleanest day,” Reddick said. “For some reason with the cycles and everything, it just felt like we just didn’t have our normal advantage. … We were kind of narrowed down on the last restart and just nothing was going anywhere.”
Reddick could be the most dangerous of the four drivers below the cutline.
He won the Circuit of the Americas in March and posted top-10 finishes at the Indianapolis and Watkins Glen road courses this season. In the Next Gen era, Reddick has three wins and seven top-10 finishes in 11 road races.
“Since we were so strong on the road courses, we’ll be able to handle minus-two (to the cutline),” Reddick said.
Wallace finished 23rd on Sunday.
“Not the day we needed,” he said. “We decided to work on a plan. These plans are great with your teammates, but I felt like it hurt us to start. “We got stuck in position on the track and you had to fight and fight your way back to the front. It took us three stages to get there and then we gave it away at the last pit stop. Not what we needed.
“Obviously we thought this weekend would be a good weekend for us, but we just didn’t make it happen.”
Of the plan, which didn’t work out as hoped, Wallace said: “We’re trying to get Toyotas in. I’m all for it. “So if Toyota or anyone at JGR sees that, I’m all for it, but it’s just hurt us and it’s just made us retreat.”
How about going to the Roval to avoid elimination?
“Just another race track,” said Wallace, who has struggled on road courses.
Chastain had little chance on Sunday as he was caught in the first incident.
“We will do our best,” he said after finishing 37th.
Busch was the 25th on Sunday.
“If I could make moves, get into good positions and put myself in good positions, I could move forward,” Busch said. “My chess game seems to be terrible, or I get exhausted every time it comes to an end and we just lose places.”
Busch will need significant help to advance to the Round of 8 if he doesn’t win at the Roval next weekend. Busch’s last Cup victory on a road course came in Sonoma in 2015.
“This is our last chance,” Busch said of next week’s race at the Roval, “so we’ll see what we get.”