2022 Talladega review
The NASCAR Playoffs are in the midst of their second round. This past weekend, the series visited the Talladega Superspeedway for an unpredictable and chaotic race. This race, however, proved to be anything but.
Chase Elliott secured the win for his first win in the playoffs so far and became the first playoff driver to win a playoff race thus far. Elliott had to survive a late-race restart with some hard chargers to punch his ticket to the next round of the playoffs.
The race started with a bang as the big one happened on lap 24. Harrison Burton was turned into traffic by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. going into Turn 1 in a crash that collected multiple cars, including playoff driver Joey Logano.
This accident slowed the pace of the race as the action got less intense after the 12-car pileup. The rest of the stage saw the lead change hands several times between several drivers, including Denny Hamlin, William Byron and the eventual stage winner, Ryan Blaney.
While Kyle Larson started the second stage out front, Blaney continued to show his dominance by retaking the lead and throwing several blocks to stay out front. Blaney would keep this lead until ceding it to run near the back of the pack after a near accident with former teammate Brad Keselowski.
As the second stage drew to a close, Elliott, Larson and Tyler Reddick raged a fierce battle for the stage win, Larson and Elliott needing the stage points to advance in the playoffs. Elliott, the eventual race winner, went on to win the second stage.
Ross Chastain and Blaney were the prominent faces at the front of the field throughout much of the final stage as they traded the lead multiple times. The race finally heated up after a caution flew with only six laps remaining.
Elliott was able to outduel Blaney after the restart and take the lead on the front stretch to win the race.
The race itself was a chess match for many playoff drivers trying to keep their cars clean for the end of the race. Two opposing strategies played out for much of the race, which yielded two very different results.
The first strategy was to be aggressive and try to lead as much of the race as possible. This strategy, while having a high potential to yield a win, also ran the risk of those drivers being involved in an accident.
The other method is to ride around in the back of the field to avoid late-race accidents. The latter strategy proved to be ineffective for many as the expected late-race accidents never panned out, and many were stuck in the back of the pack as the race wound down.
Next week the Cup Series heads to the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL for the second elimination race of the playoffs. Currently, there are still three elimination places that are yet to be decided (Alex Bowman has already been eliminated as he will not race this weekend due to a head injury).
Christopher Bell and Byron will need a stellar showing to secure spots in the next round, as they are 33 and 11 points below the cutoff line, respectively.
While some drivers appear to be safe, one race can change anything, be sure to tune into the Bank of America ROVAL 400 this Sunday.
Ethan Ellis is a second-year student studying broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Ethan Ellis is a first year student at Penn State University. He is from the small town of Rocky Mount in the southern part of Virginia. He is currently majoring in broadcast journalism with a minor in sports studies and is work towards becoming and sports announcer for ESPN.