NASCAR: Another playoff driver hurt by Ryan Blaney’s disqualification

Ryan Blaney, Team Penske, NASCAR playoffs (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Ryan Blaney, Team Penske, NASCAR playoffs (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

Ryan Blaney wasn’t the only driver who lost ground to the cut line thanks to NASCAR disqualifying him from Sunday’s round of 8 race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney didn’t have the strongest of afternoons on Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, so coming away with a sixth place finish after scoring points in both of the first two stages was a positive for the driver of the No. 12 Ford, even though he ended the South Point 400 sitting 17 points below the NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 cut line.

But shortly after the conclusion of the 267-lap race around the four-turn, 1.5-mile (2.414-kilometer) Las Vegas, Nevada oval, Blaney’s 39-point afternoon turned into a one-point afternoon, and he fell to 56 points (not 55 since the cut line moved up by one point) behind the cut line.

Blaney, who is seeking his first Championship 4 berth in what is his fifth career appearance in the round of 8, was disqualified from the South Point 400 when it was discovered that the left front shock of his No. 12 Ford didn’t meet overall specified length.

Not only was Blaney demoted to 36th (last) place in Sunday’s race, giving everybody who originally finished from seven through 36th an extra point, but he was demoted to 36th in both stage one and stage two.

This netted some NASCAR Cup Series playoff drivers additional points.

Blaney initially finished those stages in sixth and eighth place, respectively, and thus scored five and three points in them before his disqualification.

Two round of 8 drivers gained a point in stage one because of Blaney’s disqualification. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin was promoted from seventh to sixth place and Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron was promoted from 10th to ninth.

Just one round of 8 driver gained a point in stage two because of Blaney’s disqualification. 23XI Racing’s Tyler Reddick was promoted from ninth to eighth place.

Five round of 8 drivers gained a point at the end of the race because of Blaney’s disqualification. Byron was promoted from seventh to sixth place, Reddick was promoted from eighth to seventh, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. was promoted from ninth to eighth, Hamlin was promoted from 10th to ninth, and RFK Racing’s Chris Buescher was promoted from 11th to 10th.

So Byron, Reddick, and Hamlin all gained two points, while Truex and Buescher each gained one. The only two round of 8 drivers unaffected by Blaney’s disqualification were Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell.

Larson won the race after sweeping the first two stages, scoring 60 points and locking himself into the Championship 4. Bell finished the race in second place after finishing in second and third in the first two stages, netting him 52 points.

Before Blaney’s disqualification, Bell was two points behind the Championship 4 cut line. Because he didn’t gain any points after Blaney was disqualified while Hamlin and Truex did, Bell now sits three points below the cut line.

Bell is the only driver whose gap to the cut line moved in a negative direction because of Blaney’s disqualification — aside from Blaney, of course.

One point might not seem like much, but you have to consider just how close some of the advancement margins have been from round to round over the years. We have seen battles decided by one point — and others decided by tiebreakers — before.

The only other driver who was slightly disadvantaged by Blaney’s disqualification was Truex, who was initially tied for third place in the playoff picture with Hamlin, two points ahead of Bell. He owned the tiebreaker over Hamlin, due to having a better finish.

Now Hamlin is one point ahead of Truex, making Truex the final driver above the Championship 4 cut line, though Truex is now three points ahead of Bell instead of two. Hamlin is now four points up.

Buescher remained 23 points behind the cut line, due to only gaining one point like Truex. Byron now sits 11 points ahead instead of nine, while Reddick sits 15 points behind instead of 16.

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The round of 8 of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs is scheduled to continue this Sunday, October 22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway with the Dixie Vodka 400, which is set to be broadcast live on NBC starting at 2:30 p.m. ET. Begin a free trial of FuboTV now and don’t miss it!