NASCAR Cup Series playoffs: Bristol night race drama drops four from the field

·5 min read

Four of the 16 NASCAR playoff drivers saw their championship hopes dashed Saturday night, and the drama of Bristol made the final drivers into the field of 12 in question through the checkered flag. Here’s how the drivers stand:

Drivers who advanced

Kyle Larson (3,059 points): Was a constant leader at Bristol, winning the second stage and finishing first to close the race. Larson was already locked into the next round based on points prior to tonight. He earned his sixth win of the 2021 season.

Martin Truex Jr. (3,029): Was already set to advance to the next round after his victory last weekend at Richmond, but his run wasn’t nearly as dominant at Bristol. Truex started on the pole but lost his lead position early, then finished out of the top 10 in the second stage and finished seventh at the flag.

Denny Hamlin (3,024): Locked his spot in the Round of 12 with a win at Darlington and had another strong run at Bristol despite a ninth-place finish. He won the first stage and finished second in Stage 2, but cut a tire after contact with Larson racing for the lead with around 100 laps to go.

Ryan Blaney (3,024): Controlled the race in part of the final stage, battling with Bristol veteran Kevin Harvick for the top spot. He locked in his place in the Round of 12 before the third stage based on points and closed the night in fourth.

Kyle Busch (3,022): Pit under green flag conditions with around 40 laps to go with a flat tire. The stop was quick, but he went from racing into the top five to two laps down after the stop. He finished in 21st.

Chase Elliott (3,021): Had a relatively quiet night mid-race, but led laps in the opening stage and in the final 100 laps. Elliott pit with a flat tire after light side contact with Harvick racing for the lead. Elliott advanced to the next round based on points after Anthony Alfredo exited the race in the final round. He finished 25th.

Alex Bowman (3,015): Entered the final stage nine points above the cutoff and was told he was racing his Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron for the transfer spot. Both Bowman and Byron raced in the top 10 in the final stage, and clinched a spot in the next round after entering the race below the cutoff.

William Byron (3,014): Entered the final stage down nine points to the cutoff, and raced up to fifth with around 75 laps remaining. He finished in third to sneak by as the final transfer spot in the Round of 12.

Joey Logano (3,013): Advanced on points before the race ended despite the finishing out of the top 10 in each stage. Logano had a long pit stop early, then finished 12th in Stage 2, and ended the night in 11th.

Brad Keselowski (3,008): Had a solid night, recovering from a 13th place finish last weekend at Richmond, with an sixth-place finish. He will advance on points.

Christopher Bell (3,005): Advances to the next round on points after posting a third-place finish last weekend at Richmond. Bell pit under green late in the race with bad damage to his car body and finished in 29th.

Kevin Harvick (3,002): Shot to the lead off a restart in the final stage, but quickly dropped to second behind Ryan Blaney. Harvick then gained his P1 spot back in the final 100 laps and finished in second behind Larson. He secured his place in the next round on points after the second stage, and was at the front of the pack in the final stage for multiple late-race restarts. He also had some strong words for competitor Chase Elliott after the race...

Drivers out of the playoffs

Tyler Reddick: Also needed a stronger run to advance to the next round. Reddick ran in the bottom 20 for much of the race, and although he was able to unlap himself in the final stage, it wasn’t enough given the strong Hendrick runs.

Aric Almirola: Bounced back from a leaking oil line early in the race as he sat close to the cutoff prior to Saturday night. Almirola was +16 entering the final stage after overcoming the early drama, but fell to running in 17th and just +1 in the last 80 laps with Hendrick Motorsports cars in the top 10. He finished in 18th and won’t continue in the postseason.

Kurt Busch: Said he was hoping for a “nice, smooth night” prior to tonight’s race as he entered tied with Bowman in points at the cut line, but Busch’s night wasn’t nearly as smooth as he needed. He struggled with the balance of his car and raced a lap down for much of the final stage, finishing in 19th.

Michael McDowell: Needed a win to advance, but raced at least one lap down for most of the race. This is the end of the postseason push for the Daytona 500 winner.

NASCAR at Bristol race results

Order

Driver

Car No.

1

Kyle Larson

5

2

Kevin Harvick

4

3

William Byron

24

4

Ryan Blaney

12

5

Alex Bowman

48

6

Brad Keselowski

2

7

Martin Truex Jr.

19

8

Erik Jones

43

9

Denny Hamlin

11

10

Matt DiBenedetto

21

11

Joey Logano

22

12

Tyler Reddick

8

13

Chase Briscoe

14

14

Ross Chastain

42

15

Austin Dillon

3

16

Bubba Wallace

23

17

Ryan Preece

37

18

Aric Almirola

10

19

Kurt Busch

1

20

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

47

21

Kyle Busch

18

22

Daniel Suarez

99

23

Chris Buescher

17

24

Michael McDowell

34

25

Chase Elliott

9

26

Corey LaJoie

7

27

J.J. Yeley

51

28

Cole Custer

41

29

Christopher Bell

20

30

Garrett Smithley

53

31

Josh Bilicki

52

32

David Starr

66

33

James Davison

15

34

Quin Houff

0

35

Anthony Alfredo

38

36

Justin Haley

77

37

B.J. McLeod

78

38

Ryan Newman

6

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