Talladega’s in the rear-view mirror, and for many playoff contenders, that’s very good news. But dozens of cars were left in ruins … just like so many playoff hopes. Let’s take a quick look back before rolling into this weekend’s elimination race at Kansas.
Every year, Talladega delivers more carnage than a first-grader eating spaghetti. At Sunday’s Alabama 500, of the 40 cars that began the race, only 14 were running at the end. Wrecks took out big dogs like Martin Truex, Kyle Busch, and Kevin Harvick, leaving the door open for Brad Keselowski to run high and wide for the win and a pass right on through to the third round.
So let’s sort through the smoke and flying tires to give our Up/Down rundown. Up, a big Up, goes to Dale Earnhardt Jr. He didn’t win his final race at the track that’s the headquarters of Junior Nation, but he finished a respectable 7th, only his fifth top-10 finish all season. And the day after, he had even better news, announcing on Instagram that he’ll soon be a daddy. Congratulations to Junior and wife Amy, but he’ll soon learn that the only thing more stressful than Talladega is a carpool line.
Elsewhere on the Up side, there isn’t much. Denny Hamlin was the only playoff driver to finish anywhere near the front. And that means there are an awful lot of Downs, starting with Kyle Busch. The guy has two wins in the playoffs, but at the moment he’s on the wrong side of the bubble. He’ll need to close a seven-point gap with the eighth-place driver … who just happens to be a seven-time champion. Yeah, good luck with that, Kyle.
So who’s our pick heading into Kansas? We’re going to go straight chalk, once again, and pick Martin Truex Jr. Ol’ Number 78 won earlier this season at Kansas, and has been absolutely dominant at mile-and-a-half tracks this year. As for whose playoff seasons end? Kansas will mark the end of the yellow brick road for Ryan Blaney, Matt Kenseth, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Jamie McMurray.
That’ll do it for this week. Remember: always ride the high line. Enjoy Kansas, and we’ll see you next week!
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.