Chasing the Chasers: Talladega
The biggest wildcard in the Chase saw a shakeup in the standings and the gap in the top five shrink heading into Martinsville.
Johnson ran up front all day long and kept his car clean and out of trouble. When he got shuffled back with less than 10 remaining he made a charge to the front but the field went single file. With the wreck involving Austin Dillon and Ricky Stenhouse occurring after taking the white flag, the field was frozen and Johnson finished 13th.
Kenseth was another victim of the bottom line not forming. He was running top five for much of the day but when it counted he got shuffled back and finished 20th. Kenseth needed to survive Talladega and technically he did. (-4)
Ky. Busch was the biggest gainer this week as he was able to stay on the outside and avoid the last lap wreck. He finished top five and moved to third in the standings. After early race troubles saw him lose a lap it was a great rebound for Busch. (-26)
Harvick’s plan was to do whatever the leaders (Kenseth and Johnson) didn’t. They stuck to that plan all day and when the laps were winding down they were moving forward. Harvick rode around in the back hoping to avoid the melee and they did and gained some points. (-26)
This was a big race for Gordon. They couldn’t afford to lose any more points to the leaders. Like Harvick they chose to make a late charge. He dropped way back but still finished 14th. Gained on the leaders and is still in this title talk heading to Martinsville. (-34)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Earnhardt had a plan but that was until contact behind him saw the race end under caution and Earnhardt had to settle for second. Earnhardt ran up front all day and kept himself in position for the win. Strong run and strong finish sees Earnhardt moving up the standings. Little too late for a title this year but this team has rebounded nicely since Chicago (-52)
I said last week that Biffle’s title hopes were over and I stand by that but they had a quiet day on Sunday and brought home their car in 11th place. This team just didn’t show the speed I expected on Sunday to really run up front but they brought the car home in one piece so technically it is a win. (-52)
Bowyer has proven he can win on plate tracks and has had plenty of success on them. At times on Sunday he was running near the front other times he dropped back. Bowyer finished ninth but hasn't finished better than that in the Chase. Not exactly what he needed when the guys he is chasing (Biffle and Earnhardt) finished ahead of him or around him. (-57)
Ku. Busch had a ho-hum race for himself. He ran near the front but contact late hurt his car and when nobody dropped to the bottom he lost a lot of ground. He finished 18th but lost ground in the Chase to those he is chasing. (-61)
In case you missed it Edwards was in the race on Sunday. It was a pretty non-descript type day for Edwards. He ran around mid pack most of the day kept his car out of trouble. It was not the day they needed to make up points on Busch, Bowyer or Biffle. Finishing 17th hurt more than it helped. Edwards is barely hanging onto the top 10 in points. (-68)
Anytime Newman comes out of Talladega not being on his roof or airborne it is considered a win. Sunday Newman tried running around the back strategy and in the end it paid off with a ninth place finish. It was a solid run and solid finish for Newman at a track that hasn’t been very kind to him. (-72)
Logano looked like he had something for them as the race worn. Just like others in the Chase, the bottom line going nowhere cost them a chance at a better finish. Logano settled for 16th but had a car capable of a much better finish. (-75)
Of all the Chase drivers Kahne had the most trouble at Talladega. Kahne lost the draft early and was never able to get back on the lead lap. The lack of cautions hurt this team and they once again had the worst finish by a Chase driver in 36th. (-101)