NASCAR Cup Series News & Notes – Bristol Motor Speedway

The stage is set, and the anticipation is high for this Saturday’s NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Round of 16 cutoff race, the Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Three Playoff drivers have locked themselves into the Round of 12 by either wins or points in the first two races of the Round of 16 – Denny Hamlin (won at Darlington), Martin Truex Jr. (won at Richmond) and Kyle Larson (clinched on points) – leaving nine spots still up for grabs this weekend.

The 2021 season marks the second time the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff’s third race has been held at Bristol Motor Speedway and just the second Cup postseason event at the 0.533-mile track. Bristol Motor Speedway (2020-2021) is the fifth different track in series history to host the third race of the Playoffs; joining Talladega Superspeedway (2004-2005), Kansas Speedway (2006–2010), Dover International Speedway (2011-2017) and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course (2018-2019). During the Playoff Era from 2004-2019, Bristol Motor Speedway was scheduled as the 24th race of the regular season.

A total of 13 different drivers have won the third race of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, led by Jimmie Johnson (2008, 2013), Greg Biffle (2007, 2010), Tony Stewart (2006, 2009) and Kevin Harvick (2015, 2020) with two victories each.

Three times the third race of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs has been won by a non-Playoff driver. In 2005, NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett was 14th in points when he won the Talladega Superspeedway Playoff race. Then in 2006, NASCAR Hall of Famer Tony Stewart was ranked 11th in points when he won the Kansas Speedway Playoff race. And finally, Greg Biffle was ranked 14th in points when he won the 2007 Kansas Playoff race.

Third Race of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs – Race Winners
Track Playoff Race Winners Date
Bristol Kevin Harvick Sunday, September 19, 2020
Charlotte RC Chase Elliott Sunday, September 29, 2019
Charlotte RC Ryan Blaney Sunday, September 30, 2018
Dover Kyle Busch Sunday, October 1, 2017
Dover Martin Truex Jr Sunday, October 2, 2016
Dover Kevin Harvick Sunday, October 4, 2015
Dover Jeff Gordon Sunday, September 28, 2014
Dover Jimmie Johnson Sunday, September 29, 2013
Dover Brad Keselowski Sunday, September 30, 2012
Dover Kurt Busch Sunday, October 2, 2011
Kansas Greg Biffle Sunday, October 3, 2010
Kansas Tony Stewart Sunday, October 4, 2009
Kansas Jimmie Johnson Sunday, September 28, 2008
Kansas Greg Biffle Sunday, September 30, 2007
Kansas Tony Stewart Sunday, October 1, 2006
Talladega Dale Jarrett Sunday, October 2, 2005
Talladega Dale Earnhardt Jr Sunday, October 3, 2004

Since the inception of the Playoffs in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2004, three times the winner of the third race of the postseason has gone on to win the title that same year. In 2008, Jimmie Johnson won the third race of the Playoffs at Kansas Speedway and went on to win his third consecutive title. It was his first of three Playoff wins that season (Kansas, Martinsville-2, Phoenix-2). In 2012, Brad Keselowski won the third race of the Playoffs at Dover International Speedway and went on to win his first series title. It was Keselowski’s lone win during the 2012 Playoffs. Then in 2013, Jimmie Johnson won the third race of the Playoffs at Dover International Speedway and went on to win his sixth series title. It was his first of two Playoff wins that season (Dover-2, Texas-2) for the then Hendrick Motorsports driver.

The worst finish by a driver in the third NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race that went on to win the series title that same season was:

  • At Bristol Motor Speedway (2020): Last season, Chase Elliott finished seventh at Bristol Motor Speedway – the third race of the Playoffs – and went on to win the title later that season.
  • At the Charlotte Road Course (2018-2019): In 2019, Kyle Busch finished 37th at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course – the third race of the Playoffs – and went on to win the title later that season.
  • At Dover (2011-2017): In 2011, Tony Stewart finished 25th at Dover International Speedway – the third race of the Playoffs – and went on to win the title later that season.
  • At Kansas (2006-2010): In 2006, Jimmie Johnson finished 14th at Kansas Speedway – the third race of the Playoffs – and went on to win the title later that season.
  • At Talladega (2004-2005): In 2004, Kurt Busch finished fifth at Talladega Superspeedway – the third race of the Playoffs – and went on to win the title later that season.

In total Bristol Motor Speedway has hosted 120 NASCAR Cup Series races dating back to the inaugural event on July 30, 1961 – the race was won by Jack Smith (with relief from Johnny Allen) driving a Pontiac. The 120 NASCAR Cup Series races at Bristol have produced 51 different pole winners and 42 different race winners.

NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip leads the series in wins at Bristol Motor Speedway with 12 victories; including eight straight (1978, 1979, 1981 sweep, 1982 sweep, 1983 sweep, 1984, 1986, 1989, 1992).  Six former Cup Bristol winners are entered this weekend, led by Kyle Busch with eight victories (Spring 2007, 2009 sweep, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019). Kevin Harvick is the most recent winner at the track taking the checkered in this event last season.

Active Bristol Winners Wins Seasons
Kyle Busch 8 2019, ’18, ’17, ’11, ’10, ’09 sweep, ’07
Kurt Busch 6 2018, ’06, ’04, ’03 sweep, ’02
Brad Keselowski 3 2020, ’12, ’11
Kevin Harvick 3 2020, ’16, ’05
Denny Hamlin 2 2019, ’12
Joey Logano 2 2015, ’14

NASCAR Cup Series

Next Race: Bass Pro Shops Night Race

The Place: Bristol Motor Speedway

The Date: Saturday, September 18

The Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

TV: NBCSN, 6:30 p.m. ET

Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR (Channel 90)

Distance: 266.5 miles (500 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 125),

Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 250), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 500)


Clinch Scenarios: Last chance to make the Playoffs’ Round of 12

This weekend’s Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway will bring the first round of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs to a close and four drivers will be eliminated from the postseason. With three drivers locked-in and moving on, that leaves nine spots still up for grabs this weekend.

Already Clinched

The following three drivers have clinched a spot in the 12-driver Playoff field of the next round: Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr.

Can Clinch Via Points

If there is a repeat winner or a win by a driver who cannot advance to the next round, the following drivers could clinch by being ahead of the 11th winless driver in the standings. The same point requirements listed below would hold true if a new win comes from among Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliott, Christopher Bell, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch or Aric Almirola.

  • Joey Logano: Would clinch with 14 points.
  • Ryan Blaney: Would clinch with 26 points.
  • Kevin Harvick: Would clinch with 29 points.
  • Chase Elliott: Would clinch with 35 points.
  • Christopher Bell: Would clinch with 36 points, 37 points if Aric Almirola wins.
  • Brad Keselowski: Would clinch with 41 points.
  • Kyle Busch: Would clinch with 46 points.
  • Aric Almirola: Would clinch with 51 points.
  • Kurt Busch: Would clinch with 54 points.
  • Alex Bowman: Would clinch with 54 points.
  • Tyler Reddick, William Byron and Michael McDowell: Could only clinch with help this weekend.

The following drivers could clinch on points with a win by Kurt Busch, Alex Bowman, Tyler Reddick, William Byron or Michael McDowell:

  • Joey Logano: Would clinch with 16 points.
  • Ryan Blaney: Would clinch with 28 points.
  • Kevin Harvick: Would clinch with 31 points.
  • Chase Elliott: Would clinch with 37 points.
  • Christopher Bell: Would clinch with 38 points, 39 points if Reddick, Byron or McDowell wins.
  • Brad Keselowski: Would clinch with 43 points.
  • Kyle Busch: Would clinch with 48 points.
  • Aric Almirola: Would clinch with 53 points.
  • Kurt Busch: Would clinch with 55 points.
  • Alex Bowman: Would clinch with 55 points.
  • Tyler Reddick, William Byron and Michael McDowell: Could only clinch with help.

Can Clinch Via Win

The following drivers would clinch on their win alone: Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliott, Christopher Bell, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch, Alex Bowman, Tyler Reddick, William Byron, Michael McDowell.

NASCAR Cup Series Driver Playoff Outlook Following Race No. 28
Rank Driver Points Race Wins Stage Wins Playoff Pts Pts From Cutoff
1 Kyle Larson 2,151 5 13 53 Clinched On Points
2 Denny Hamlin 2,127 1 8 23 In On Wins
3 Martin Truex Jr. 2,113 4 5 29 In On Wins
4 Joey Logano 2,093 1 5 13 40
5 Ryan Blaney 2,081 3 4 24 28
6 Kevin Harvick 2,078 0 0 2 25
7 Chase Elliott 2,072 2 3 21 19
8 Christopher Bell 2,070 1 0 5 17
9 Brad Keselowski 2,066 1 2 8 13
10 Kyle Busch 2,061 2 5 22 8
11 Aric Almirola 2,056 1 0 5 3
12 Kurt Busch 2,053 1 3 8 0
13 Alex Bowman 2,053 3 0 15 0
14 Tyler Reddick 2,048 0 3 3 -5
15 William Byron 2,035 1 3 14 -18
16 Michael McDowell 2,015 1 0 5 -38

 

Can’t Eliminate This: Previous drivers that have raced their way into the Round of 12

Since the introduction of the ‘elimination style’ format of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs in 2014, several drivers have raced their way into the Round of 12 in the third and final cutoff race of the Round of 16.

2014: Heading to the Dover (third race of the Playoffs) in 2014, Denny Hamlin was ranked 13th in the Playoff standings and six points back from the Round of 12 cutoff. Hamlin finished 12th at Dover and advanced on points, knocking AJ Allmendinger (23rd-place finish at Dover) out of the Playoffs.

2015: Heading to the Dover (third race of the Playoffs) in 2015, Kevin Harvick was ranked 15th in the Playoff standings, 23 points back from the Round of 12 cutoff and Kyle Busch was ranked 13th in the Playoff standings just one point behind the Round of 12 cutoff. Kevin Harvick won the race at Dover and automatically advanced to the next round. Kyle Busch finished second at Dover and advanced on points to the Round of 12 knocking Jamie McMurray (fourth-place finish at Dover) and Jimmie Johnson (41st-place finish due to mechanical issues at Dover) out of the Playoffs.

2016: Heading to the Dover (third race of the Playoffs) in 2016, Austin Dillon was ranked 13th in the Playoff standings just five points back from the Round of 12 cutoff. Dillon finished eighth at Dover and advanced on points knocking Kyle Larson (25th-place finish at Dover) out of the Playoffs.

2017: The four drivers below the Round of 12 cutline heading into the third race of the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs at Dover International Speedway – Ryan Newman, Austin Dillon, Kasey Kahne and Kurt Busch – all failed to advance to the Round of 12 and were eliminated from the Playoffs following the Dover race.

2018: Heading to the Charlotte ROVAL (third race of the Playoffs) in 2018, Clint Bowyer was ranked 13th in the Playoff standings and four points back from the Round of 12 cutoff. Bowyer finished third at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course and advanced on points knocking Austin Dillon (39th-place finish at the Charlotte ROVAL due to an incident) out of the Playoffs.

2019: Heading to the Charlotte ROVAL (third race of the Playoffs) in 2019, Clint Bowyer was ranked 14th in the Playoff standings, four points back from the Round of 12 cutoff and Alex Bowman was ranked 13th in the Playoff standings just two points behind the Round of 12 cutoff. Bowyer finished fourth and Alex Bowman finished second at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course. Both drivers advanced on points to the Round of 12 knocking Kyle Larson (13th-place finish at Charlotte) and Aric Almirola (14th-place finish at Charlotte) out of the Playoffs.

2020: The four drivers below the Round of 12 cutline heading into the third race of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs at Bristol Motor Speedway – William Byron (-3), Cole Custer (-8), Matt DiBenedetto (-25) and Ryan Blaney (-27) – all failed to advance to the Round of 12 and were eliminated from the Playoffs following the Bristol race.

 

Playoff drivers at Thunder Valley

Bristol Motor Speedway, a high-banked, concrete, 0.533-mile short track, is one of the most challenging venues the NASCAR Cup Series competes on. And this weekend the famous short track deemed ‘The Last Great Colosseum’ will hold the final race in the Playoff’s Round of 12. Below is a look at the top 16 Playoff contenders and their career performances at Thunder Valley.

Kyle Larson enters this weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway as the Playoffs’ point standings leader with 2,151 points. He has accumulated enough points in the first two races of this round to clinch his spot in the Round of 12. Larson has advanced to the Round of 12 in four out of five attempts; he was eliminated in the Round of 16 back in 2016 in his first postseason appearance. Larson has made 12 series starts at Bristol posting two top fives and seven top 10s.

Denny Hamlin heads to Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend ranked second in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings with 2, 127 points. Hamlin clinched his spot in the next round with his win at Darlington Raceway to open the Playoffs. He has advanced to the Round of 12 in six of the last seven seasons; he failed to move on to the next round in 2018. Hamlin has made 30 series starts at Bristol posting two wins, nine top fives and 14 top 10s.

Martin Truex Jr. rolls into to Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend ranked third in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings with 2,113 points. Truex clinched his spot in the next round with his win at Richmond Raceway last weekend; his fourth victory of the season. Truex has advanced to the Round of 12 in his last six consecutive seasons (2015-2020). Truex has made 30 series starts at Bristol posting two top fives and three top 10s.

Joey Logano looks to Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend ranked fourth in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings with 2,093 points – only 40 points ahead of the Round of 12 cutoff. Logano has advanced to the Round of 12 in all six of his attempts in the ‘elimination-style’ Playoffs over the last seven seasons; the lone exception was when Logano failed to make the Playoffs in 2017. Logano has made 24 series starts at Bristol putting up two wins, six top fives and 10 top 10s.

Ryan Blaney enters this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway ranked fifth in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,081 points – just 28 points ahead of the Round of 12 cutline. Blaney has advanced out of the Round 16 in three out of his four attempts over the last four seasons; he failed to make the Round of 12 last year. Blaney has made 11 series starts at Bristol posting one top five and four top 10s.

Kevin Harvick heads to Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend ranked sixth in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,078 points – just 25 points ahead of the Round of 12 cutoff. Harvick has advanced out of the Round of 16 in all seven of his attempts in the postseason since 2014. Harvick has made 40 series starts at Bristol posting three wins, 13 top fives and 20 top 10s.

Chase Elliott goes to Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend ranked seventh in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,072 points – just 19 points ahead of the Round of 12 cutoff. In his five Playoff appearances Elliott has advanced to the Round of 12 in all five of them. Elliott has made 10 series starts at Bristol amassing three top fives and five top 10s. He leads the series among active drivers in average finish at Bristol with a 12.1.

Christopher Bell looks to Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend ranked eighth in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,070 points – a mere 17 points ahead of the Round of 12 cutline. This season is Bell’s first appearance in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. Bell has made two series starts at Bristol posting one top-10 finish.

Brad Keselowski rolls into Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend ranked ninth in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,066 points – only 13 points ahead of the Round of 12 cutoff. Keselowski has advanced out of the Round of 16 in all seven of his attempts in the postseason since 2014. Keselowski has made 22 series starts at Bristol posting three wins, six top fives and seven top 10s.

Kyle Busch heads to Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend ranked 10th in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,061 points – just eight points ahead of the Round of 12 cutoff. Busch has advanced out of the Round of 16 in all seven of his attempts in the postseason since 2014. Busch leads all active drivers in wins at Bristol with eight victories. In 31 starts he has eight wins, 14 top fives and 19 top 10s.

Aric Almirola pulls into Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend ranked 11th in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,056 points – only three points ahead of the Round of 12 cutoff. Almirola has only advanced out of the Round of 16 in two of four postseason appearances; he failed to advance in 2014 and 2019. Almirola has made 23 series starts at Bristol Motor Speedway accumulating two top fives and four top 10s.

Kurt Busch heads to Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend ranked in the 12th and final transfer spot in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs standings tied in points with 13th place Alex Bowman with 2,053 points – Busch currently holds the tie breaker of best finish in the Round of 16 with his sixth-place finish at Darlington compared to Bowman’s best finish of 12th last weekend at Richmond. Busch has advanced out of the Round of 16 in four of his last seven Playoff appearances (2014-2020); he failed to advance in 2014, 2017 and 2019. Busch has made 40 series starts – tied with Kevin Harvick for most among active drivers – posting six wins (second-most among active drivers), 12 top fives and 21 top 10s.

Alex Bowman arrives at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend ranked in the 13th in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs standings – the first spot outside the cutoff – tied in points with 12th place Kurt Busch with 2,053 points – Busch currently holds the tie breaker of best finish in the Round of 16 with his sixth-place finish at Darlington compared to Bowman’s best finish of 12th last weekend at Richmond. Bowman has advanced out of the Round of 16 in all three of his previous appearances in the postseason (2018-2020). Bowman has made 10 series starts at Bristol producing one top five and two top 10s.

Tyler Reddick rolls into Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend ranked 14th in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,048 points – just five points back from the Round of 12 cutline. This is Reddick’s first career appearance in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. Reddick has made to series starts at Bristol posting one top-five finish.

William Byron heads to Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend ranked 15th in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,035 points – 18 points back from the Round of 12 cutoff. Though mathematically possible to point his way into the Round of 12 this weekend, a win would be the best guarantee. In his two Playoff appearances (2019, 2020) Byron has advanced out of the Round of 16 only once; he failed to make it to the Round of 12 last season. Byron has made six series starts at Bristol posting one top-10 finish.

Michael McDowell heads to Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend ranked sixth in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,015 points – just 38 points behind the Round of 12 cutoff. McDowell is in a must-win situation this weekend if he wants to advance to the Round of 12. This is McDowell’s first appearance in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. The 2021 Daytona 500 winner, McDowell, has made 21 series starts at Bristol posting one top-10 finish.

NASCAR Cup Series, Etc.

NASCAR announces 2022 schedule – This week NASCAR has announced the 2022 schedule for the NASCAR Cup Series. Some notable changes include the Clash being moved to the L.A. Coliseum, World Wide Technology Raceway joining the schedule and Homestead-Miami Speedway being moved back into the Playoffs. For the entire press release and 2022 schedule please visit the following link at NASCARMedia.com – 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Schedule

Bristol Motor Speedway introduces first series of digital collectables on RaceDayNFT.com – In celebration of its milestone 60th anniversary, Bristol Motor Speedway announced this week they will debut the next generation of NASCAR collectibles with a digital series of NFTs (non-fungible token) to kick off the NASCAR weekend. Bristol Motor Speedway has made available 10,000 FREE Bass Pro Shop Night Race commemorative ticket NFTs, including 500 golden tickets on RaceDayNFT.com, a new fan-focused digital marketplace. Two additional Bristol Motor Speedway themed NFTs will be released on Thursday, followed by a Winner’s Edition auction on Monday, Sept. 20. The Bristol Motor Speedway series will be Speedway Motorsports’ first collection of digital NFTs for fans to claim, buy, trade and resell at  RaceDayNFT.com.

An NFT (non-fungible token) is a unique digital collectible (such as an image or video) that is officially licensed and recorded on the blockchain to demonstrate proof of ownership. Bristol Motor Speedway’s debut collection includes the following:

  • Free NFT: 10,000 commemorative Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race ticket NFTs, including 500 golden ticket NFTs*, available Sept. 13 at 1 p.m. ET for FREE at RaceDayNFT.com. (Limited to one per account.)
  • Limited-Edition NFTs: 500 Bristol Motor Speedway Gladiator Sword NFTs will be available at $20 each, Thursday, Sept. 16 at 1 p.m. ET. (No limits on purchasing.)
  • At The Track NFT: 2,500 BMS guests visiting between Sept. 16 – 18 are eligible to claim The Last Great Colosseum FREE NFT via a QR code. Available on property during race weekend only.
  • Winner’s Edition NFT: Bristol Motor Speedway will make 1 of 2 special-edition minted NFTs available following American’s Night Race. The online auction at RaceDayNFT.com begins Monday, Sept. 20 at noon ET through Thursday, Sept. 23 at 2 p.m. ET. One will be produced for the driver who wins the Bass Pro Shops Night Race during BMS’s 60th Anniversary season and an identical version will be sold at auction.

Country artist Adam Sanders to perform pre-race concert at Bass Pro Shops Night Race – Rising country music star Adam Sanders will perform at Bristol Motor Speedway Saturday, Sept. 18, as the pre-race concert prior to the start of the 7:30 p.m. Bass Pro Shops Night Race. The pre-race concert will start at 5:45 p.m. and Sanders will perform in Bristol Motor Speedway Victory Lane.

“Music here at Bristol Motor Speedway is such a major tradition and we are blessed to be able to have Adam Sanders perform before Saturday night’s green flag in the NASCAR Playoffs,” said Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager, Bristol Motor Speedway.

Sanders, a Florida native who gained prominence in Nashville first as one of the hottest young song writers on Music Row, recently released his first full-length album titled What If I’m Right.

“It’s crazy to think my career is to a point where I’m able to play Bristol Motor Speedway, these are the things you dream of as a kid,” Sanders said. “I have been a NASCAR fan all of my life and growing up, my favorite driver was Dale Earnhardt, so having the opportunity to perform where he had so many unforgettable memories driving the No. 3, is truly special. It’s Bristol, baby!”

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