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Playoff Bubble Post-Talladega: Who is in Trouble?

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Joshua Lipowski

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The Playoff Bubble following Talladega is tight, which means many drivers have no room for error heading into the Charlotte Roval. Let’s take a look at the Playoff Bubble and see both who is in trouble heading into the Roval, and who will join Ryan Blaney and William Byron in the Round of 8.

All but Locked-In: Denny Hamlin (+50)

A LOT needs to go wrong for Denny Hamlin to fall out of the Round of 8. Truthfully, as long as Hamlin stays on track on Sunday, he should be safe. Even if he does have a catastrophic failure in the first stage, every driver behind him needs to have a spectacular day for Hamlin to even be close to danger. All he needs to do is score 10 points or basically finish anywhere in the top 25, and he is in the Round of 8.

Little Room for Error, but Likely Safe: Christopher Bell (+22), Chris Buescher (+19), and Kyle Larson (+15)

All four of these drivers find themselves with a decent points cushion heading into the Roval. On top of that, all of these drivers should feel good about how well they run at the Roval. Christopher Bell and Kyle Larson have won each of the last two races there, and Larson has scored stage points in six out of eight stages including two stage wins. Chris Buescher has run well at road courses this year with four top-10s in five races, and he has finishes of third and sixth in the last two Roval races.

Little Room for Error, and Potentially in Trouble: Martin Truex Jr. (+17)

Martin Truex Jr. has been out of sorts all throughout the Playoffs. That continued at Talladega where he finished 18th with no stage points. His best finish all postseason is 17th, and he once again finds himself in potential danger of being eliminated. Truex Jr. is a good road course racer, but, his Playoff performance puts him slightly into the danger zone heading into this weekend. Another 17th-20th place run could spell doom for Truex Jr. if the wrong guys have good days.

No Room for Error, and In Trouble: Brad Keselowski (+2)

Brad Keselowski is only two points above the cut-line, and he has not performed well on road courses this year without a top-10 or a lap led all season on road courses. On top of that, he has a couple of solid road course racers behind him in the standings. He has no room for error, and he has an uphill battle ahead of him. He is in danger of falling out of the Round of 8.

In Trouble, But, Can Fight Back In: Tyler Reddick (-2) and Ross Chastain (-10)

Both Tyler Reddick and Ross Chastain have a fighting chance to point their way back into the Playoffs. Reddick is one of the best road course racers in the sport with three wins and seven top-10s in the last nine races on road courses. Chastain is not amazing on road courses, but he does have two top-10s there this season combined with solid speed at Texas two races ago. Both of these drivers can get themselves into the Round of 8.

In Trouble: Bubba Wallace (-9)

Bubba Wallace is in major trouble despite only being nine points out. Yes, he did finish seventh at the Roval last year, but he is generally not great on road courses. He needs more than a decent 11th-15th place run, he needs a top-5 or top-10 run, and, it is tough to see whether or not he can do that. He has more than proved he belongs with his Playoff performance, but this race does not play to his strengths.

Must-Win: Kyle Busch (-26)

Kyle Busch is 26 points out, and, unless there is a major shift with the drivers ahead of him, he needs to win. Busch has two second-place finishes at the Roval, so, this is not the worst track for that. However, he has not shown winning speed since he won his last race at Gateway in early June. A lot has to go right for Busch, but, his road course prowess could make him just a bit more dangerous.

The next cut-off race is set to be a crazy one at the Charlotte Roval. Could we see some surprise eliminations?

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Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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