After last weekend’s race in Texas, the drivers of the NASCAR Cup Series set their sights on the biggest oval track on the schedule. Talladega. A name that is synonymous with racing and traditions. For fans, it’s always a good time. For the drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, Talladega takes years off their lives because of how stressful it is. Over the past few years, Talladega has been dominated by Ford teams and drivers in years past. Dating back to the Spring of 2018, Ford has won six of the twelve Talladega races that have been run. Those six wins include this past Sunday’s race with a familiar face in victory lane at Talladega.
Great Racing at Talladega:
Whether the racing is good or not, the fans always enjoy themselves when it comes to watching the racing at Talladega. Thankfully, this past weekend had a fantastic race at Talladega. Since the debut of the Next-Gen car, racing at Daytona, Talladega, and Atlanta has not been great. The common denominator between these three tracks is that these are all drafting tracks. There would typically be two-wide racing, or a single-file lane formed in the pack just to ride around for the laps to wind down. Right from the green flag, it was very intense on Sunday. On lap four, three-wide racing was already being produced. Ryan Blaney would win stage one after the caution was thrown for a crash between Ross Chastain and Kyle Busch. The entirety of stage two would be run under green flag conditions as Brad Keselowski would win the stage.
During the final stage, there would be a multi-car wreck that involved Keselowski and others, which would knock Keselowski out of contention. That wreck would happen with 27 laps to go. After another caution for debris with 17 laps to go, this would set up a 13-lap shootout to the finish. This is when Kevin Harvick came into the picture. With two laps to go, Blaney would lead the high lane with Harvick on the low lane. After the white flag, Harvick would clear Blaney in turn one. Going down the back straightaway, Blaney would cut to the inside of Harvick. It was a drag race to the line with Blaney winning over Harvick by 0.012 seconds. This was the third time that Blaney has won at Talladega, all with finishes less than 0.012 seconds. However, Blaney’s win on Sunday is not the big story from Talladega.
Kevin Harvick gets disqualified from Talladega:
Earlier this year, Kevin Harvick announced that 2023 would be his last in NASCAR Cup Series competition. In simple terms, it has been a rough year for Harvick and the #4 team. Despite only one DNF on the season, the inconsistency of Harvick has been the tone of his season. This past Sunday, it was a good day to be a Kevin Harvick fan. Despite missing out on a win, Harvick kept a smile on his face and his head held high to get a win before his career closes out. Well, it was a good day to be a Kevin Harvick fan until it wasn’t. At 7:14 PM on Sunday evening, it was first reported by Bob Pockrass that Harvick was disqualified from the event after failing post-race inspection. It was found that Harvick’s car violated sections 220.127.116.11.F and 14.1.E of the “Overall Assembled Vehicle Rules.”
During post-race inspection, it was found that the windshield fasteners were not secure on Harvick’s car. Despite crossing the finish line in second place, Harvick was placed in 38th position by NASCAR. The only other time where something similar happened like this was at Pocono last season with Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch. Both Hamlin and Busch failed post-race inspection after crossing the finish line first and second. Chase Elliott was awarded the win that day. If Harvick had won the race and failed post-race inspection, it would’ve been a massive outrage for NASCAR fans.
What to Expect from Charlotte:
This coming weekend, NASCAR heads to what could be the most difficult track on the schedule, the Charlotte Roval. Ever since the debut of the Roval in 2018, it has been known to chew up playoff drivers and spit them out. Last season, the 2021 Cup Series Champion, Kyle Larson, was eliminated from the playoffs after hitting the turn seven wall with 12 laps to go. Larson was 18 points to the good entering Charlotte last season. This coming Sunday, it will be a challenge for a lot of drivers to navigate throughout the Roval without a scratch. Anything can happen. If there’s a non-playoff driver to watch on Sunday, it would be Chase Elliott. Elliott currently leads active drivers with seven Road Course wins, with two on the Roval. He is very hungry for his first win of the season.
Current Playoff Standings:
1st: William Byron: Advanced to the Round of 8.
2nd: Ryan Blaney: Advanced to the Round of 8.
3rd: Denny Hamlin: +50 points above the cutline.
4th: Christopher Bell: +22 points above the cutline.
5th: Chris Buescher: +19 points above the cutline.
6th: Martin Truex Jr: +17 points above the cutline.
7th: Kyle Larson: +15 points above the cutline.
8th: Brad Keselowski: +2 points above the cutline.
9th: Tyler Reddick: -2 points below the cutline.
10: Bubba Wallace: -9 points below the cutline.
11th: Ross Chastain: -10 points below the cutline.
12th: Kyle Busch: -26 points below the cutline.
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As the confetti fell in victory lane in Daytona on the Hendrick Motorsports No....