Only one race remains in the NASCAR Cup Series Round of 12. The championship-eligible drivers will head to the Charlotte Roval for the cutoff race on October 10, but only eight will move on in the playoffs. However, two Team Penske drivers have set themselves up with strong performances at Talladega Superspeedway.
The second race of the Round of 12 took place on Monday, October 4, after rain forced NASCAR to delay it. The drivers headed to the 2.66-mile superspeedway with the goal of completing 188 laps and fighting for the checkered flag, but more rain brought the race to an end after only 117. 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace earned the win while Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano finished second and third, respectively.
The two former Cup Series champions headed toward Talladega Superspeedway barely above the cutline. Keselowski was the closest with only a four-point advantage while Logano sat six points above the line. Their teammate, Ryan Blaney, had a 24-point advantage. Following the trip to Talladega, Logano (+21) and Keselowski (+20) sit in a much better position. Blaney, on the other hand, is now only 15 points above the cutline.
Having a 20-point cushion does not guarantee that the two drivers will automatically move on to the Round of Eight. They will still have to contend with the Charlotte Roval. However, the extra points ensure that they will have some maneuvering room at a track where neither has won in three previous attempts.
Keselowski Nearly Broke a Tie With Dale Earnhardt Jr. & Jeff Gordon
The driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Ford came within reach of taking the lead and moving into the winning position at Talladega Superspeedway. However, Wallace blocked Keselowski and held his spot at the front of the pack until a caution flag and heavy rainfall brought the race to an early end.
If Keselowski had made the pass and secured a win at Talladega, he would have achieved two things. First, he would have secured a spot in the Round of Eight with Las Vegas winner Denny Hamlin. Second, he would have broken a tie with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon for the second-most wins at Talladega Superspeedway.
Both Earnhardt and Gordon retired from the Cup Series with six wins at the superspeedway. This mark is the second-best in NASCAR history behind Dale Earnhardt Sr., who won 10 times at Talladega before his tragic death in 2001. Keselowski entered the 2021 season with five wins at the track, but he added a sixth on April 25 by capturing the Geico 500.
Keselowski had the opportunity to win for the seventh time at Talladega. He told FOX Sports reporter Bob Pockrass that he could have passed Wallace with “another lap or two” in the race. However, he was not able to make his move before a wreck brought out the caution flag. Now he will have to wait until the 2022 season to pursue history.
Logano Has a History of Solid Production at the Roval
Of the Team Penske drivers, Logano is probably the safest. He has the most points out of the group, and he has a history of production at the track. Though Blaney has also performed well in the limited number of races.
The Cup Series has only headed to the Charlotte Roval three times overall — 2018, 2019, and 2020. Defending Cup Series champion Chase Elliott has won the past two races while Blaney captured the checkered flag in the inaugural trip to the road course, his first of three top-10s. Keselowski has a crash, a fifth-place finish, and an 18th-place finish on his record.
Logano, for comparison, has also cracked the top-10 in all three races. He finished 10th in 2018 and 2019 before taking second behind Elliott in the 2020 race. This outing just continued a trend of strong performances on the NASCAR road courses, a list that also includes a win at Watkins Glen, one top-five at the Daytona Road Course, and three top-fives at Sonoma.