Kevin Harvick battled Kyle Busch through the end of the final stage of racing and came out on top. Again. Harvick winning really put the dagger through the heart of a few teams hoping against hope to advance to the Round of 12.
Chief among those was Young Ryan Blaney who was in a win or lose situation. Even though he was running in the top 10 for a while, racing luck was against him and he finished a respectable but disappointing 13th.
Chase Elliott won Stage 1 and Kyle Busch won Stage 2 after starting at the rear of the field. Harvick finished 2nd in Stage 2 setting up the epic battle for the rest of the night.
The long green flag runs, more like Richmond than old Bristol, put pressure on the 4 drivers looking to advance. William Byron, Cole Custer, Blaney and Matt DiBennedetto started the night below the cut line and stayed there. Byron ran into the back of Joey Gase after Gase unexpectedly checked up. Byron was running near the Top 10 but without winning, his chances of advancing were nonexistent.
Kyle Busch was in rare form post-race skewering the lapped card and fellow drivers Joey Gase and Joey Logano. With Busch in the lead, Harvick passed him using Logano as a pick. Logano was slower and remained in the high line, which was the preferred line at the time, and slowed Busch just enough to allow Harvick to scoot by. Whether this was a case of a Ford helping another Ford or Logano got trapped or he just has it out for Kyle Busch, we may never know. But that move possibly cost Busch the race. As Kyle said, “That’s why no one really likes him.”
This sets up the next three races with Las Vegas being the only race that some drivers feel comfortable at. After Vegas, the next races are Talladega and the roval at Charlotte. Both are kind of crap shoots as far as the drivers are concerned.
So, who’s next? The game only gets tighter from this point on. If you are not in the hunt from the get-go, jumping past drivers is very difficult without a lot of racing luck. When asked about the next few races, Kyle Busch said that they would be eliminated in the next round. Wow, way to pump up your team, Kyle.
Numbers wise though, he is correct. They are in line to be eliminated without some help. But they are not that far out. Kyle is just one point behind Austin Dillon and Aric Almirola. Beating these two drivers SHOULD be easy for Busch as long as Joe Gibbs Racing doesn’t fail inspection again and the drivers have to start at the rear of the field. Of the bottom four right now, Kyle has the best shot at advancing past this round. Brother Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola join Kyle in the bottom 4 right now. Las Vegas is about speed, Talladega is about drafting and avoiding a big wreck and the roval will be about handling and track position.
My picks for who will be eliminated:
Who wouldn’t surprise me if they got eliminated:
Martin Truex, Jr.
And in case you missed it, Ross Chastain will take over for Matt Kenseth in the Ganassi 42 car in 2021. That means that the lottery for where Bubba Wallace will wind up just got a little tighter. While Bubba may seem like middle of the road talent so far we have to wait to see what he can do in a car that is better supported than the 43 car. He has a lot of sponsorship and that is the name of the game these days.
Before you all attack Bubba as a no talent driver, don’t forget – Paul Menard drove for years primarily because of his family sponsorship. And I didn’t hear too much bitching about Menard taking up space on the track.
(Image courtesy of NASCAR Media/Jared C. Tilton | Getty Images)