NASCAR SPRINT CUP CHASE

CHASE BUBBLE WATCH: PLAYOFF PICTURE ANALYSIS AHEAD OF TALLADEGA

The middle event in the three-race Round of 12 for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs had a tough act to follow after a frantic race the previous week at Charlotte. But Kansas Speedway made the most of its billing for intensity Sunday with late-race pressure in the Hollywood Casino 400.

Former Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski and top rookie contender Chase Elliott absorbed the hardest hits in the Chase standings, slipping into a precarious perch with the always unpredictable Talladega Superspeedway next on the schedule.

Jimmie Johnson earned a pass to the next round with his victory last weekend, andKevin Harvick prevailed Sunday at Kansas to join this round's immunity list. The field will be chopped from 12 to just eight title-eligible drivers after next weekend's visit to the Alabama track.

Before the pressure ratchets up again at Talladega, let's take a look at what the Chase picture holds after Sunday's race at Kansas.

Who's hot: Harvick has turned this Chase playoff format -- now in its third year -- into his personal playground. He's still never been eliminated before the championship finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and now he's 2-for-2 in winning the middle event in each three-race round this season.

Kyle Busch, who struggled to get a handle on Kansas early in his career, sewed up a fifth-place finish to rank fourth on the Chase Grid. His Joe Gibbs Racing teammateCarl Edwards took the runner-up position, finding himself in fifth on the provisional Chase grid.

And Joey Logano's third-place run at Kansas offset the sour taste of a 36th-place result last weekend, barely lifting him out of the bottom four. He sits tied with Austin Dillon in points, but has a tiebreaker edge for the eighth and final transfer spot on the provisional Chase grid because of Sunday's higher finish.

Who's not: Keselowski was saddled with the worst finish of the remaining 12 Chasers, his Team Penske No. 2 Ford sliding into the infield grass and emerging with heavy front-end damage after contact with Denny Hamlin. Keselowski wound up 38th in the 40-car field, with Hamlin salvaging a 15th-place effort.

The only driver below Keselowski and Hamlin in the standings is Elliott, who endured a pair of tire rubs and multiple scrapes of the wall for a 31st-place finish, three laps down. The Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate sits a substantial 25 points off the cut-off point heading to Talladega.

 

Four in, four out: Here's a look at the Chase bubble, with four drivers being eliminated after the third race of this round, Oct. 23 at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

STANDING DRIVER POINTS DIFFERENTIAL FROM CUT-OFF
5. Carl Edwards +24
6. Kurt Busch +17
7. Martin Truex Jr. +13
8. Joey Logano +0
------------ CUT-OFF LINE ------------
9. Austin Dillon -0
10. Denny Hamlin -6
11. Brad Keselowski -7
12. Chase Elliott -25

Up next: Alabama 500, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2 p.m. ET, Talladega Superspeedway(NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

 

Who it favors
Most wins: Brad Keselowski 4 (15 races); Jimmie Johnson, 2 (29 races).
Best driver rating: Chase Elliott 101.3 (1 race); Matt Kenseth 89.2 (33 races);Jimmie Johnson 88.6 (29 races).
Best average finish: Chase Elliott, 5.0 (1 race); Brad Keselowski 13.9 (15 races);Kevin Harvick 15.3 (31 races).

Who it hurts

Worst percentage of top 10s: Austin Dillon, 16.7 percent (1 in 6 races); Carl Edwards, 25 percent (6 in 24 races); Kyle Busch, 27.3 percent (6 in 22 races).
Worst driver rating: Carl Edwards, 66.4 (24 races); Austin Dillon 73.8 (6 races);Martin Truex Jr. 79.1 (23 races).
Worst average finish: Carl Edwards, 21.4 (24 races); Kyle Busch, 20.9 (22 races);Denny Hamlin, 20.0 (21 races).

-NASCAR-

Here's a look at the NASCAR XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series Grids:

NXS Chase Grid

NCWTS Grid