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Playoff Update: What Just Happened At Texas?

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There were some BIG shakeups in the 2023 Playoff standings following today's Texas race. Let's take a look.

As the Round of 12 in the NASCAR Playoffs kicks off, it would appear that the troubles aren’t over for some of the big-name contenders. With a race full of cautions, drama, ups and downs, and sheer bad luck, where do our 12 remaining Playoff contenders stand in the brackets? Well, we have one winner who locked himself into the Round of 8 and a lot of other drivers who are in some pretty big danger of being eliminated. Let’s get into it.

Clinched A Round of 8 Berth

We’ll get the easiest part of these articles out of the way first. Your race winner, only leading 6 laps on the day but they were the last six laps, was the points leader heading into Texas, William Byron. This win for the Liberty University No. 24 is Hendrick Motorsports 300th NASCAR Cup Series win. With this win, William Byron, HMS’ most consistent driver throughout the 2023 season, clinches a spot in the Round of 8. He can rest easy heading into the wildcards that are Talladega and the Charlotte Roval in the next two weeks.

If you want to relive the move that won William Byron the race over Bubba Wallace’s No. 23, you can see it in the tweet below:

Time to celebrate for the No. 24 HMS crew.

Still In The Fight But With A Little Bit of Heartbreak

23XI unloaded fast, which is kind of rare for that team. Bubba Wallace scored the pole in convincing fashion and led a massive total of 111 laps. That’s nothing he nor his team should hang their heads about. But it’s understandable why it is disappointing. He was looking for a win and he desperately wanted one.

While Bubba currently sits as the first car on the outside looking in, he entered this race down by double digits. Now, he’s only down by 2. If Bubba can stay out of trouble the next two weeks, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that he can sneak his way into the Round of 8 on points. He just has to keep his nose clean.

Bad Start For Some Key Players

We were inching towards the end of stage 1 when KFB in the No. 8 3CHI Chevy felt like something was wrong. He radioed into his team, saying that he was afraid that he had a flat tire. Not wanting to lose track position and valuable stage points, the crew chief asked Busch to milk it to the end of the stage. With 6 laps remaining in the stage, Kyle Busch, driving the same No. 8 car with which Reddick won this race only a year ago, spun around without help, smashing hard into the outside SAFER barrier. This is a devastating incident that now leaves Kyle Busch -17 in the 12th spot, outside looking in. He’s not quite in must win category as of yet but this team as been far too inconsistent during these playoffs and even in the few weeks leading up to them.

A very disappointed Kyle Busch comments after his incident. He’s open to hearing suggestions on different approaches.

Perhaps the playoff driver who escaped catastrophe the most is Denny Hamlin. Hamlin is now sitting pretty in the standings at +37 in 2nd place but, with the two wildcards we have coming up, that by no means makes him safe. The key to running deep in the playoffs is by avoiding mistakes. He more or less dominated the first round but, today, got caught up in his teammate’s issues on pit road, causing some significant damage to his No. 11 FedEx Toyota. Much more of this and Hamlin, who many believed to be the championship favorite just one week ago, will find himself in danger of elimination.

If Denny Hamlin were in danger of losing his championship favorite consideration, Kyle Larson would be the biggest threat in taking it. The No. 5 team had a wickedly fast first round of the Playoffs despite their season-long inconsistency. Well, that inconsistency (or maybe it was just “bad luck”) reappeared today. Kyle Larson, once again having one of the fastest cars in the field, found himself battling hard on the inside of Bubba Wallace for the race lead with only 19 laps to go. That was when everything went wrong. The air brought Larson’s No. 5 Hendrick Cars.com car around as he hit hard into the outside wall, ending his day. Having won the second stage, he’s not out of the outs…yet. But he currently holds the last transfer spot of 8th, only 2 points to the good of race dominator, Bubba Wallace. Knowing his noted difficulties at superspeedways, Larson might have to hope for that hail Mary pass come the Charlotte Roval.

A massive wreck with 13 laps to go took out the likes of playoff contenders, Ryan Blaney and last year’s race winner, Tyler Reddick. While Tyler Reddick only brushed the wall (he now sits -3 in the 10th position of the Playoff standings) Blaney suffered a big hit, ending his day. Heading into Talladega (a track that he’s typically pretty good at), he sits -11 in the 11th spot in the standings.

That’s all we have for you from Texas, Daily Downforce readers. What were your biggest surprises in this race? Are you surprised by how tightly the field is separated? Who do you think is safe? Who do you think will be the first ones out? Let us know! And be sure to follow all of our social media pages (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc.) for all your latest NASCAR news and discussions! On to ‘Dega!

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Cody Williams

Cody Williams is the author of BUNNY BOY and THE FIFTH LINE. He lives near Bristol, TN.
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