Talladega Wreckfest Shakes Up Playoffs

By Matteo Marcheschi

Only 14 cars finished the Alabama 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, but only two (by my count) made it through without significant contact: the top two finishers, Brad Keselowski and Ryan Newman. Every driver listed “out” of the race was out because of a crash, or parked for rules violations after a crash, in the case of Jimmie Johnson and Matt Dibenedetto.

Seven different multi-car incidents occurred during the race, involving 45 cars, some, obviously, multiple times. Only two playoff drivers finished on the lead lap: winner Brad Keselowski and sixth-place Denny Hamlin. Kyle Larson and Matt Kenseth both finished the race one lap down, the only drivers to do so.

This means eight playoff drivers failed to finish the event. The worst off was Jamie McMurray, who wrecked entering pit road on lap 26 and finished 37th. McMurray is 29 points below the cutoff line, and will likely need a win to secure his spot in the round of eight.

Also below the cutoff line are Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth, who were caught up in the massive 16-car pileup. Busch was knocked out by the wreck, finishing 27th, while Kenseth continued to finish 14th, the last car running. They sit seven and eight points below the cutoff, respectively. Points could get them in, but a win at Kansas this weekend would be ideal.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is also on the outside looking in. His day was also ended by the 16-car wreck. Stenhouse finished 26th and now sits 11th in points, 22 points below the cutoff. Like McMurray, a win will likely be needed for him to advance to the round of eight. Stenhouse had won the previous two restrictor plate events and barely advanced to the round of 12. He was hopeful to capture a third win, but instead sits in a must-win position entering the elimination race at Kansas.

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