Denny Hamlin showed why he has to be considered a top threat to win it all at Las Vegas, leading a race high 137 laps and dominating the final portion of the race.
Chase Elliott finished P2 and had a fast car but Hamlin was just too much and had too big of a lead at that point.
The race featured long green flag runs and saw only one race induced caution when Joey Gase lost a rear tire on the corner and smacked the wall hard, sending him to the hospital for evaluation.
Kyle Larson led 95 laps early in the race but a different pit strategy stuck him in traffic and he never recovered. You can sure they won’t be doing that again. Mistakes and mechanical issues forced a number of playoff drivers into desperation mode. William Byron had a super-fast car but suffered a tire issue late in the race and he now sits below the cut line. Christopher Bell and Alex Bowman also had issues that have them on the outside looking in. With the Charlotte Roval coming up, they have a chance to get out of the cellar but not a great chance. They have to survive Talladega first. At -25, Bell is in a must win situation no matter what.
As I noted last week, there would be at least one former champ on the outside looking in and instead of that being Brad Keselowski, it is Kevin Harvick! Keselowski finished P7 to Harvick’s P9 and that is all she wrote. Keselowski is the defending race winner and could put a real hurt on Harvick this week. This isn’t just about winning right now; it is also about eliminating your toughest competition and Kes would love nothing better than seeing Harvick fall further behind him before Charlotte.
Good on ya, mate.
- Hamlin (P1) for advancing in dominating fashion
- Elliott (P2) for showing some real speed at the end
- Kyle Busch (P3) led only 2 laps but enough to keep him in the hunt
- Martin Truex, Jr. (P4) led only 1 lap and just needs to survive the next 2 races
- Ryan Blaney (P5) led 8 laps and is a Talladega winner
- Tyler Reddick (P6) has to be making some veteran drivers sweat with his strong finishes
- Keselowski (P7) did just enough to stay alive
- Kurt Busch (P8) isn’t going away quietly
- Kevin Harvick (P9) is about as mad as he was last week. A Top 10 and he is still below the cut line.
- Kyle Larson (P10) led the 2nd most laps but had a costly strategy
- Matt DiBenedetto (P12) for running in the Top 10 for a fair amount of the race
- Chase Briscoe (P14), Daniel Suarez (P15) and Bubba Wallace (P16) for decent finishes.
So you had a bad day
- Joey Gase (P37) hit the wall hard, glad he is OK
- Christopher Bell (P24) is at the last driver if 12 and has a lot of work to do
- Alex Bowman (P22) has to get past Harvick and Byron in order to advance, good luck with that.
Next! Talladega Afternoons
Get ready boys and girls, it is Talladega Time! If you care at all, Kes is the defending race winner. The next 5 winners are Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and Aric Almirola. Almirola would love to play spoiler here and at Talladega anything is possible. With his win, Hamlin will probably be on the front row and is very hard to pass. He has speed in that car and he isn’t afraid to block and block early on, which should make everyone else around him nervous. Anyone with a fast car will find drafting partners and we saw how this race package performs. The closing rate is very high and taking away 5-10 mph might keep drivers from getting airborne but does nothing for opening up the pack racing which is a major reason for cars getting airborne to begin with.
This race is really a crapshoot when it comes to predicting a winner. I like Blaney’s chances this week. He is usually a very careful driver, his Ford generally has speed and he drafts well. Kes hasn’t show tremendous speed this year but he could find himself in position to win late in the race. Hamlin is going to be hard to beat. Sure he is advancing, but he would love to start eliminating potential threats. Kyle Larson has been fast and if you recall, his engine blew on lap three this spring. We have no idea how he will run at Talladega. Expect to see team and manufacturers stay together whenever possible but when it comes down to the end of the race, it will be “Katie, bar the door.”
Drive fast, turn left and most def keep the shiny side up this week. Please leave your thoughts and comments below.
(Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images/NASCAR Media)