Ryan Blaney took pole and secured his spot in the Round of 8 at the YellaWood 500 in Talladega, Alabama.
This was Blaney’s second win this season and his third career win at Talladega. The No. 12 Ford Mustang crossed the checkered line with one race left to go in the Round of 12 and claimed No. 2 seed in playoff standings.
“To win three times here in Talladega that’s super cool,” Blaney said to NBC Sports. “This is such a special place to win at, so I cannot wait to go to Victory Lane.”
Blaney and Kevin Harvick were neck and neck for the first place finish. Blaney crossed the finish line 12-one-thousandth of a second before Harvick did. Blaney showed consistent pace with his Ford Mustang in the dog fight with Harvick.
Harvick finished in second after his close race with Blaney. Harvick did not make it to the Round of 12 but still managed a great race finish in his No. 4 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing.
William Byron finished the race third with two second place finishes in two stages. Bryon reported after the race that his No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro was “squirrely,” similar to how he described his car earlier this season at Daytona and the previous Talladega race.
“I was kind of squirrely getting pushed especially in the middle lane, so I felt like my best bet was to get to the bottom and hope that the line was my friend there at the end,” Byron said to NBC. “I thought we had gotten that a little bit better recently, and then there was a little bit of a rules change, and I think the cars got a little more out on the track today.”
Denny Hamlin had an average running position of 25th but finished the race in fourth. He now runs in third for playoff standings. Hamlin was penalized for speeding on pit road. This is the second race in a row where Hamlin has received a penalty; after the previous race in Phoenix, Hamlin was fined $50,000 and lost 25 driver points because of his crash with Ross Chastain.
“Obviously do not want to set us back there with that penalty but when we gotta put the pedal to the metal, we go,” Hamlin said to NBC Sports.
Bubba Wallace finds himself 11th in playoff standings after placing 24th in the race. Wallace lost his pace in later laps and could not adjust to that third lane while also being faced with a prolonged pit stop for fuel.
There is one more race left before the Round of 8. Drivers Byron, Blaney, Hamlin, Christopher Bell, Chris Buescher, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Larson, and Brad Keselowski are above the elimination line entering the upcoming race at Charlotte.
After the race in Alabama, the drivers who are below the elimination line and risk disqualification as stands, Tyler Reddick, Wallace, Ross Chastain, and Kyle Busch, have one last chance to clinch a playoff spot this upcoming weekend in North Carolina.
The drivers head to Concord, North Carolina to race in the Race Bank of America ROVAL 400 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course. The race will consist of 109 laps equalling around 252 miles. The race will take place on Oct. 8 at 11 a.m.