The first round of the playoffs concludes on Saturday night at Bristol.
The famed half-mile short track is hosting a playoff race for the first time thanks to NASCAR’s revised playoff schedule. The traditional August night race has been moved to September in what NASCAR hopes will be a boost to the first round of the playoffs.
After Saturday night, the top 12 drivers in the points standings will move on to the second round while four drivers will be eliminated. Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski won the first two races of the playoffs while Ryan Blaney and Matt DiBenedetto find themselves on the precipice of being eliminated.
Here’s a quick look at the playoff bubble. Remember, a driver can advance to the next round with a win and a second-place finishing driver can earn a maximum of 59 points in a single race if he wins each of the first two stages.
9. Kyle Busch, 2,076 points
10. Kurt Busch, 2,065
11. Aric Almirola, 2,065
12. Clint Bowyer, 2,061
13. William Byron, 2,058
14. Cole Custer, 2,053
15. Matt DiBenedetto, 2,036
16. Ryan Blaney, 2,034
Bristol Night Race
Saturday, Sept. 19, 7:30 p.m. (NBCSN)
The favorite: Denny Hamlin (+450)
Hamlin gets the favorite status here thanks to his short-track prowess. He won this race a year ago. But we like a couple other favorites over Hamlin if you’re looking to bet on this race.
Best bets among the favorites
Brad Keselowski (+650)
Keselowski won at Bristol from the pole in the spring for his second win of the season. And guess what? He’s starting first on Saturday night. Three of Keselowski’s four wins this season have come on tracks where Cup Series cars are subject to NASCAR’s higher horsepower rules. Yeah, that Bristol win this spring was because Chase Elliott and Joey Logano crashed late in the race, but Keselowski’s performance on short tracks in 2020 is no fluke.
Kyle Busch (+650)
Busch is bound to win at some point this season, right? And what better place to bet on a Busch win than Bristol? Busch has eight wins in 30 Bristol starts and three of those wins have come in the last six races. Busch has finished fourth in the last two Bristol races since he won the spring race in 2019 and gets a top 10 in 60 percent of his Bristol starts. He’ll be good on Saturday night.
Best bets among the longshots
Christopher Bell (+8000)
Bell was ninth at Bristol in the spring and has been good at the track in the Xfinity Series. He led laps in three of his four Xfinity Series starts at the track and finished first in the spring of 2019. Bell is also driving for a team that had a really good car with Matt DiBenedetto in the second Bristol race a year ago.
Bubba Wallace (+25000)
Wallace’s performance has improved over the last four Bristol races. He got his first top 10 in five starts in the spring when he finished 10th. He also had a good run going in the All-Star Race before he went spinning off the bumper of Michael McDowell. Wallace probably isn’t going to win, but it would be a hell of a story in his final season at Richard Petty Motorsports.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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