When Kyle Busch predicted his playoff elimination, it was easy to pass it off as a frustration-laden comment following another close call with the victory.
Busch said, “We’ll be eliminated in the next round” after finishing second at Bristol Motor Speedway. Bristol was the final race in the Round of 16, and Busch had one of his strongest runs of the season with 159 laps led and a stage win, but was still empty-handed thanks to Kevin Harvick.
The defending champion started the second round below the cutline, and he hasn’t made up much ground. Busch was nine points behind after finishing sixth at Las Vegas and, after a long day of limping his damaged car around at Talladega, is 21 points back going into the Charlotte Roval.
Busch is 109 laps away from his prediction being correct.
“I just hate it when I’m right,” said Busch after finishing 27th at Talladega.
It hasn’t just been a challenging round only for Busch; all four drivers below the cutline going into the Roval have tall tasks ahead trying to advance.
Austin Dillon is also 21 points below the cutline. The surprise of the first round, Dillon and his team quickly came back down to earth with a mechanical failure at Las Vegas (finishing 32nd) and somehow salvaging a decent day at Talladega with a wounded car (finishing 12th).
“This car is killed,” said Dillon. “I hope that we can make something happen at the Roval. We’re a little too far back in points, but we’ll see what we can do. A lot of things can happen. It’s easy to miss a shift; it’s easy to jump a curb and wreck. We need those guys in front of us to help us out, and see if we can help ourselves out a little bit, too.”
Clint Bowyer is 38 points below the cutline and likely needing a win at the Roval. The good news is that he’s finished inside the top five in his previous two races there. In the first two races of this round, Bowyer was 12th at Las Vegas and 33rd at Talladega.
“Got to win,” Bowyer said of his outlook.
Bowyer’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammate, Aric Almirola, is 48 points below the cutline. Almirola does need to win at the Roval after finishing 17th at Las Vegas and 37th at Talladega.
“We’ll go onto the Roval and try one more time,” said Almirola.
The updated playoff grid after Talladega:
Denny Hamlin – WIN
Kurt Busch – WIN
Kevin Harvick + 68 points
Chase Elliott + 44 points
Brad Keselowski + 41 points
Martin Truex Jr. + 32 points
Alex Bowman + 22 points
Joey Logano + 21 points
Kyle Busch – 21 points
Austin Dillon – 21 points
Clint Bowyer – 38 points
Aric Almirola – 48 points