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MENCS: How playoff drivers faired in the First Data 500

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Logano won the first race in the Round of Eight, punching his ticket to the championship four. He’ll be joined by three of the other eight remaining playoff drivers for a winner-take-all race for the championship on Nov. 18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Truex slid across the finish line 0.221 seconds behind Logano, in third. He’s tied for second (third if you bump Logano to the top after his win) in the playoff points standings with Harvick. Essentially he and Harvick are both on the bubble, ahead of fifth place by 25 points.

He had this to say about the way Logano raced him in the final turn:

“I was next to him for six laps. I never knocked him out of the way. We were going to race hard for it in my book. I cleared him fair and square. We weren’t even banging doors for me to pass him. He just drove into the back of me and knocked me out of the way. That’s short track racing, but what goes around comes around.

“I pretty much had the feeling going to the backstretch that that was going to happen and there was nothing I could do about it. It sucks, but that’s the way it goes. I can promise you I won’t forget what he did.”

Busch finished the race in fourth, 0.824 seconds behind the race winner. Excluding Logano Busch is the points leader. He’s amassed 4104 points but that total can be read as 104 because each round of the playoffs NASCAR adds 1000 points to offset those still competing with those who have missed the cut. In the First Data 500 Busch collected 49 points, including stage points. He’s 46 points ahead of his brother, Kurt Busch, in fifth.

Kurt Busch finished his day in with a sixth place finish. He’s 25 points out from the top four playoff positions. In the first race in the Round of Eight Kurt earned 43 points, including 11 total stage points.

“We finished fifth in the first stage, fifth in the second stage and sixth at the end and we probably lost points today,” said Kurt. “That is what the playoffs are about. We had to be a fuzz better today and I don’t even know where.”

Winner of two of the last three races, Elliott fought hard Sunday to keep himself in contention for the championship. Photo by Jonathan McCoy.

Elliott qualified outside the top-20 but was able to still collect seven stage points in the second stage. Leaving Martinsville Elliott is sixth in the playoff standings. He’s 31 points away from the last spot in the championship four after finishing seventh.

Harvick endured a long 500 laps on NASCAR’s oldest track. He got two stage points in the first stage but at the end of the second stage he was a lap down. He was given the free pass when the stage caution was waved. By the end of the race Harvick had worked himself back up near the top-10 but when the checkered flew he was the 10th across the line. He and Truex are tied for third and fourth on the playoff grid.

Harvick said, “we had a good day. A decent day. Not a great day.”

Almirola entered Martinsville as the bottom seated driver in the playoffs. With only six playoff points he started the Round of Eight 49 points behind Kyle Busch. Sunday he earned one stage point with a 10th place finish in the first stage but didn’t do anything to help himself in the second stage.

“I am just frustrated,” said Almirola. “I thought we had a really good Smithfield Ford Fusion going into today and thought we could capitalize on an opportunity here at Martinsville. For whatever reason all of our cars were off a little bit. We didn’t have the speed and grip that we had here in the spring race.” The first year Stewart-Haas Racing driver finished the First Data 500 in 11th and is still at the bottom of the points standings, 50 points behind Truex and Harvick.

Bowyer spent the vast majority of his race in the top-10 but a lap 458 spin in turn four regulated him to a 21st place finish. He’s currently eight points ahead of his teammate, Almirola but 42 behind the four driver cutoff.

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