NASCAR: Kyle Busch not the big winner at Talladega

Kyle Busch, Talladega, NASCAR (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, Talladega, NASCAR (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images) /

Kyle Busch may have taken the checkered flag to win the GEICO 500, but he wasn’t the biggest winner of Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway.

Richard Childress Racing’s Kyle Busch earned his second win of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series on Sunday afternoon at Talladega Superspeedway, taking the checkered flag under caution — and with just enough fuel — to win the GEICO 500.

The win officially locks Busch, who won at Auto Club Speedway back in late February, into the playoffs for the 11th consecutive year.

While the playoff format is generally seen as a “win and in” format, Busch’s first win of the year didn’t officially lock him in, since there can still be more than 16 winners in the 26-race regular season.

The playoff spots, of which there are 16 no matter how many winners there are, go to the regular champion and the 15 drivers who rank next highest in wins.

With 26 regular season races, there can be no more than 13 two-race winners, so Busch’s second win is what solidified him his playoff berth.

But Busch really wasn’t at risk of missing the playoffs with only one win. In the event that there are more than 16 winners, the tiebreaker to determine which one-race winners get in and which don’t becomes points.

Busch entered Sunday’s 196-lap race around the four-turn, 2.66-mile (4.281-kilometer) high-banked Lincoln, Alabama oval sitting in eighth place in the standings.

So the big winner of Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race was none other than JTG Daugherty Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Stenhouse won the season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway and is one of four drivers who have one win so far this season, and he sits in the lowest position in the point standings of the four, thus making him the one most at risk of missing the postseason if there are more winners than playoff spots by the end of the regular season.

Busch’s win on Sunday means that there is one less opportunity for a new winner to emerge and thus to lessen Stenhouse’s chances of making it into the playoffs for the first time since 2017. Had a new winner emerged on Sunday, Stenhouse would be the lowest placed out of six single-race winners instead of four.

The other multi-race winners so far this year are Hendrick Motorsports teammates William Byron and Kyle Larson. The other single-race winners are Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell (first in points), 23XI Racing’s Tyler Reddick (sixth), and Team Penske’s Joey Logano (11th).

Next. All-time NASCAR Cup Series wins list. dark

Will the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season’s 11th race produce an eighth different winner? The Wurth 400 is set to be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1 from Dover Motor Speedway beginning at 2:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, April 30. Begin a free trial of FuboTV if you haven’t already done so!