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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup

Alabama Slammer: Talladega Crashes Jumble Points

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Maybe Talladega Superspeedway should have named Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race the Alabama Slammer 500 instead of the Alabama 500.

Because when the marathon wreckfest finally concluded, just 14 cars were still running, led by race-winner Brad Keselowski, who claimed his third win of the season. Keselowski won the seventh consecutive restrictor-plate race win for Ford ahead of Ryan Newman, Trevor Bayne, Joey Logano and Aric Almirola. Among the top-five finishers, all except for Newman and his Chevrolet were piloting Fords.

The Alabama 500 was the second of three races in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. After next Sunday’s race at Kansas Speedway, the field of playoff drivers will be cut from 12 to eight.

At Talladega, eight of the 12 playoff drivers were DNFs, thanks to three late-race cautions that each brought out red flags.

Here’s where all 12 playoff drivers stand after Talladega.

LOCKED IN

  1. Martin Truex Jr., 3120 points

Truex had a bad day at ‘Dega, triggering a 17-car pileup that was the first of three red flags. Ever the gentleman, he apologized to his fellow competitors for starting the chaos. Thanks to his win at Charlotte last week, Truex is locked into Round 3 of the playoffs and remains the championship favorite.

  1. Brad Keselowski, 3101 points

In earning his first victory since Martinsville in the spring, Keselowski is guaranteed to make Round 3 of the playoffs. Unfortunately for him, Talladega was the last restrictor-plate race on the schedule this season and his Team Penske Fords haven’t been as fast lately at 1.5-mile tracks. Three of the final five races are on 1.5-milers.

In for now

  1. Kyle Larson, 3096 points

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver is 29 points ahead of the cutline to advance, so barring a complete collapse at Kansas next week, he should be good to move on to Round 3 of the playoffs.

  1. Kevin Harvick, 3089 points

Harvick was not a happy camper at Talladega, as his Stewart-Haas Racing Ford didn’t seem to have the speed of the Fords from Team Penske, Wood Brothers Racing or Roush Fenway Racing. Still, Harvick is in a solid points position.

  1. Denny Hamlin, 3088 points

One of only two playoff drivers to finish in the top 10 — race-winner Keselowski being the other — Hamlin helped himself a lot by bringing home his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in sixth.

  1. Chase Elliott, 3087 points

In the closing laps, Elliott tried to shoot a gap underneath Daniel Suarez to take the lead. But Suarez moved down just enough to make contact and take them both out of the race.

  1. Ryan Blaney, 3076 points

Yet another playoff driver who had a fast car but got wrecked at Talladega, Blaney is just nine points ahead of the cutline and can’t afford any mistakes next week at Kansas is he wants to advance.

  1. Jimmie Johnson, 3074

While it might be surprising to see Johnson on the bubble to advance, the truth is he hasn’t had a very Jimmie Johnson-like season so far. On the other hand, Kansas is a very good track for him.

On the outside looking in

  1. Kyle Busch, 3067 points

Nobody but nobody saw this coming. After winning at New Hampshire and Dover, the 2015 Cup champion wound up 29th at Charlotte and 27th at Talladega. Busch is now officially on the wrong side of the points, although it would be no surprise if he went out and won next week again.

  1. Matt Kenseth, 3066 points

The lame-duck Joe Gibbs Racing driver is only 8 points on the wrong side of the cutline, so he could still race his way into Round 3 with a good finish if someone ahead of him on points has a bad race at Kansas.

  1. Ricky Stenhouse, 3052 points

Although Stenhouse has enjoyed a breakout season at Roush Fenway Racing, realistically, he’ll need to win at Kansas if he’s to advance. Given that it’s been 14 races since his last top-10 finish, Stenhouse’s title hopes are probably over.

  1. Jamie McMurray, 3045 points

In Stage 1, McMurray made an ill-advised attempt to move down the track to pit. Instead, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver got rear-ended by the onrushing Toyota of Erik Jones. The result was a 37th-place finish for McMurray, who needs to win at Kansas Speedway next week or face playoff elimination. He is 29 points below the cut line to advance.

Tom Jensen

Tom Jensen is a veteran motorsports journalist. He spent 13 years with FOXSports.com, where he was Digital Content Manager. Previously, he was executive editor of NASCAR Scene and managing editor of National Speed Sport News. Jensen served as the president of the National Motorsports Press Association and is the group’s former Writer of the Year.