Who’s in the headline – Joey Logano dominated the second round of the Chase last year, winning all three races and leading most of Talladega en route to the win. This year the wins are much harder to come by. However, in a nearly must win scenario, Logano came to the fore when it was necessary and held off all challengers to win and ensure he advanced to the round of 8.
What happened – 42 laps into the race, the complexion of the Chase changed dramatically when Martin Truex Jr. done blowed up. In a rare engine failure during a plate race, Truex saw his title hopes go up in smoke early. Roughly 100 laps later Brad Keselowski’s title dreams met the same fate, after leading the most times for the most laps, as his engine suffered a significant part failure. Chase Elliott was strong early, in a must win scenario for his title aspirations, but ended up close to mid pack when the race ended and he also bowed out of the title hunt. Austin Dillon and Denny Hamlin straddled the cut line for much of the race and it was Hamlin who triumphed thanks to his third place run and the tie-breaker rule.
Greg Biffle led for 13 laps early in the race before he was involved in a three car incident. Elliott led for nine laps before midway but wasn’t much of a factor after the crossed flags. That is all of the drivers who led double digit laps. 14 drivers exchanged the lead 31 times before Logano took the checkers.
Why you should care – Truex and Keselowski were poised for runs at the title but failed thanks to their engine failures. The remaining eight drivers all are breathing a sigh of relief that those two strong cars are out of the mix. Elliott has been very fast for the first half of the Chase and misfortune conspired against him this round to prevent his shot at the title.
What your friends are talking about – On the cool down lap, in the middle of the back straight, Kurt Busch door slammed Harvick. As drivers were exiting their cars on pit lane Harvick walked up to Busch’s car and either punched or grabbed him forcefully. Both drivers tried to downplay the situation during post race interviews. However, when two teammates are in the final eight and they are basically starting a fist fight on pit road after the elimination race, teamwork is going to be a struggle over the next three races. This situation is going to be interesting to follow over the next month.
After tech inspection, but before Cup qualifying on Saturday, NASCAR pulled the four Joe Gibbs Racing cars out of line and had them correct an area between the right rear quarter panel and the deck lid. NASCAR felt the area had been manipulated after initial qualifying inspection. The teams made adjustments to get the panels back into a condition that NASCAR deemed acceptable and went on to qualify. Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth lost their pit stall selections due to it being a fourth inspection warning. No word whether additional penalties could be forthcoming.
JGR affiliate team Furniture Row Racing had two front jack bolts confiscated during pre-qualifying inspection. The bolts had been drilled deeper than they were supposed to. NASCAR did not deem them a competitive advantage or a significant safety issue so a point penalty is unlikely.
Biffle is looking for a change for 2017. After the addition of Brian Pattie did not yield the results he’d hoped for in 2016, Biffle is looking for something different. The latest hot rumor is that Biffle will be joining AJ Allmendinger at JTG-Daugherty Racing in a second car. While that doesn’t seem like a very big step up in competitive edge, it will at least afford him a different view.
Some Cup teams ran the 2017 restrictor plate footbox configuration this weekend. It will be required in plate cars in 2017 and all cars in 2018. The 40 or so pounds of additional padding and plating will help further protect drivers’ feet in the event of a major frontal impact. JGR is one of the organizations who ran the box, which was in response to Kyle Busch’s XFINITY Series crash at Daytona in 2015.
Who is mad – Truex had one of the strongest seasons of anyone in the Cup series. His hopes for a championship went up in smoke early in the race when his engine expired. Tied for the most wins in the series this season and behind only Harvick in top 5s and 10s, Truex was on the vast majority of grids that people had filled out for office pools.
Keselowski is tied with Truex for most wins in the series and had the most dominant car of the race. The hand of fate didn’t care about either of those and struck down Keselowski’s engine before the race ended. Keselowski hasn’t seemed like a strong title contender early in the Chase but felt like he was going to make a strong run after some of the recent runs.
Austin Dillon came into the race tied with Logano for the transfer spot. As the race unfolded and the cars of Truex and Keselowski blew up he ended up battling with Hamlin for the spot. When the checkered flag flew he was tied for the spot that would advance him to the next round. Hamlin held the tie-breaker of best finish in the round so Dillon was left to ponder how many times he could have gained one spot that would have advanced him.
Who is happy – Denny Hamlin was in fourth in the middle of the tri-oval and Dillon was in 12th. Hamlin clawed his way past Kurt Busch by a couple of feet while Dillon only advanced three spots. Thanks to the third place run for Hamlin he not only tied for the spot but he won the tie-breaker. Now heading to Martinsville Hamlin has to think he’s got a strong shot at making the Final Four.
Brian Scott has run 49 Cup races. When the checkered flag flew at the end of Sunday’s race he had exactly one finish in the top 10 for his career. Richard Petty Motorsports is still trying to become a consistent contender for wins but this finish has to have Scott giddy heading back to Charlotte.
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. has scored seven top 5 finishes in his 144 race career. Thanks to Sunday’s finish he has four of them this season. His previous best was one in each of the previous three seasons. Roush Fenway has been struggling for sure but Biffle leading mid race today and Stenhouse being right there has to make the RFR brigade happy.
When the checkered flag flew: Joey Logano’s win at Talladega was his second triumph of 2016.
Logano has finished first twice at Talladega. This was his second consecutive Talladega Chase race win.
This was Logano’s 287th career start and his 16th victory.
Brian Scott’s second place run was his best career finish. It is his first career top 10 at Talladega.
This was Scott’s first second and top 10 of 2016.
Scott has one career second place run.
Denny Hamlin finished third for his second top 3 run of his career at Talladega.
Hamlin has eight top 3 runs in 2016
This was Hamlin’s 84th career podium run which ranks him 30th on the all-time list.
Brian Scott’s second place run was the best among rookies and garnered him Rookie of the Race honors.
The points reset again and the drivers for the round of 8 are all tied again in points.
1) Jimmie Johnson
1) Kevin Harvick
1) Joey Logano
1) Kurt Busch
1) Matt Kenseth
1) Kyle Busch
1) Carl Edwards
1) Denny Hamlin
What is in the cooler – As restrictor plate races go, this was one of the tamer ones you’ll see. The finish contained a lot of excitement because of the Chase implications but from a racing standpoint it wasn’t anything special. Not having the “Big One” was a good thing. We’ll give it three cold Budweisers and move on to the Round of 8.
Where do you point your DVR for next week – The Round of 8 kicks off at Martinsville Speedway next Sunday October 30th, at 1:00PM Eastern. The oldest track on the Cup schedule and the shortest will lay the foundation for the four who will compete for the title in Homestead. The race can be seen on NBCSN and streamed on NBCSports LiveExtra. It will also be broadcast on your local MRN affiliate and SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90.