Bristol Motor Speedway, Bristol, TN — September 17, 2022
The NASCAR schedule makers get an A++ for arranging the first elimination race of the Cup Series Playoffs at Bristol Motor Speedway. The Bass Pro Shops Night Race is the perfect scene for a Saturday shootout to see who advances to the next round of the postseason.
Only one Playoff driver has locked themselves into the Round of 12 on points in the first two races of the Round of 16 – Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell – leaving 11 spots still up for grabs this weekend.
Non-playoff drivers Erik Jones and Bubba Wallace won the first two races of the round of 16, keeping 15 of the 16 playoff drivers from earning a free pass to the next round.
If there is another win by a non-playoff driver, the following drivers could clinch by being ahead of the 13th winless driver in the standings. The same point requirements listed below would hold true if a new win comes from among Christopher Bell, William Byron, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, Ross Chastain, or Daniel Suarez.
- William Byron: Would clinch with 6 points
- Denny Hamlin: Would clinch with 6 points
- Joey Logano: Would clinch with 13 points (14 if Daniel Suarez Wins)
- Ryan Blaney: Would clinch with 18 points
- Alex Bowman: Would clinch with 23 points (24 if Daniel Suarez Wins)
- Chase Elliott: Would clinch with 26 points
- Kyle Larson: Would clinch with 27 points
- Ross Chastain: Would clinch with 28 points
- Daniel Suarez: Would clinch with 48 points
- Tyler Reddick: Would clinch with 51 points (52 if Daniel Suarez Wins)
- Austin Cindric: Would clinch with 52 points
- Kyle Busch: Would clinch with 53 points (54 if Daniel Suarez Wins)
- Austin Dillon: Would clinch with 54 points (55 if Daniel Suarez Wins)
- Chase Briscoe: Could only clinch with help
- Kevin Harvick: Could only clinch with help
The 2022 season marks the third-time Bristol Motor Speedway has hosted the third race of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs and just the third Cup Series postseason event at the 0.533-mile track of all time (2020-2022). From 2004-2019, Bristol Motor Speedway was scheduled as the 24th race of the regular season. Bristol Motor Speedway is the fifth different track in NASCAR Cup Series history to host the third race of the Playoffs; joining Talladega Superspeedway (2004-2005), Kansas Speedway (2006–2010), Dover Motor Speedway (2011-2017), and the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL (2018-2019).
Winners at Bristol
A total of 43 different NASCAR Cup Series drivers have won at Bristol Motor Speedway. Six of the 43 NASCAR Cup Series Bristol Motor Speedway race winners are entered this weekend, and five of the six are Playoff drivers vying for a spot in the Round of 12
|Active Bristol Race Winners||Wins||Seasons|
|Kyle Busch||8||2019, ’18, ’17, ’11, ’10, ’09 sweep, ’07|
|Brad Keselowski||3||2020, ’12, ’11|
|Kevin Harvick||3||2020, ’16, ’05|
|Denny Hamlin||2||2019, ’12|
|Joey Logano||2||2015, ’14|
Playoff drivers in Bold
NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip leads the NASCAR Cup Series in wins at Bristol Motor Speedway with 12 victories in 52 starts; including eight straight (1978, 1979, 1981 sweep, 1982 sweep, 1983 sweep, 1984, 1986, 1989, 1992). Kyle Busch leads all NASCAR Cup Series, active drivers, in wins at Bristol with eight victories in 32 starts.
Kyle Busch Leaving Joe Gibbs Racing
The big news this past week was Kyle Busch signing a contract to drive for Richard Childress Racing(RCR) in 2023. After 15 years at Joe Gibbs, Busch is leaving to join an organization on the rise. Both Childress drivers, Tyler Reddick and Austin Dillon, made the playoffs with victories this season. Dillon got in with his dramatic win at Daytona in the final race of the regular season.
Interestingly, Busch will take over the number eight car from Reddick. Despite two wins this year, Reddick is on the outs with Richard Childress after mishandling the announcement that he was leaving the team to join 23XI in 2024. RCR only has two NASCAR charters so unless they buy or rent a third for 2023 Reddick will have to qualify each week to make the field.
The “World’s Fastest Half-Mile” will host 500 laps of racing, equal to 266.5 miles. Stages are set for 125/125/250 laps.
Hendrick Motorsports driver Kyle Larson is the defending champion of the playoff race at Bristol Motor Speedway, taking the checkered flag by .227-second over second-place Kevin Harvick last season. This year, Larson will look to defend his win and if he accomplishes the feat he will become the 12th different driver to win consecutive Cup Series races at the concrete track (the last two spring Cup races have been on dirt coving the original racing surface).
Aric Almirola, another non-playoff driver, sits on the pole for the race. Almirola’s teammate at Stewart-Haas Racing, Playoff driver Chase Briscoe, sits beside him as two Ford Mustangs will lead the field to the green flag.
Almirola has a special passenger on the hood of his car as Ford’s BlueOval City will be his sponsor tonight.
- BlueOval City is a 3600-acre campus covering six square miles in western Tennessee and will produce Ford’s next all-new electric truck and batteries to power future Ford and Lincoln vehicles when it opens in 2025.
- Ford, together with its partner, SK On, is investing $5.6 billion in Blue Oval City, creating 6,000 jobs in West Tennessee at one of the largest manufacturing campuses in U.S. history.
Announced one year ago as a key component of Ford’s electric future, BlueOval City is located in Stanton, TN, over a six-square-mile area that will produce Ford’s next all-new electric truck. The $5.6 billion investment will result in one of the largest auto manufacturing campuses in U.S. history and the assembly plant will be designed to be carbon neutral from the start of production in 2025.
“Ford is enthusiastically embracing an electric future and BlueOval City is going to be at the forefront of this new era,” said Kel Kearns, Electric Vehicle Center plant manager at BlueOval City. “We know how much Tennesseans love motorsports, so to be on Aric’s car this weekend for one of the most popular events of the season is a wonderful way to spread the message of who we are and the arrival of BlueOval City.”
Aric Almirola(10) took the early lead out of the second turn. But, it was Denny Hamlin(11) edging out Chase Briscoe(14) as the pack completed the first lap. Ryan Blaney(12) also passed Briscoe as the front three began to open a slight advantage on the remainder of the field in the first 10 laps.
Almirola caught the tail end of the field 24 laps in and BJ McLeod(78) became the first car to go a lap down. As cars, mostly single file, surrounded the entire speedway with varying intervals between them, the battle to survive 500 laps at Bristol was fully on.
Blaney moved to the lead, 36 laps in, as both he and Hamlin passed Almirola. The yellow flag was displayed for the first time on lap 41 as both Harrison Burton(21) and JJ Yeley(15) suffered flat tires. The caution period allowed almost everyone to come to pit road for service and a check on tire wear.
Brad Keselowski(6), and Bubba Wallace(45) stayed out to take over the top two spots and lead the pack back to green flag racing. Austin Cindric(2) had a tire go down and had to pit under green flag racing. He lost two laps having to come in for fresh rubber.
Almirola spun on lap 91 and brought out the second caution of the evening. Blaney, with a flat tire, came to pit road for service also. His crew failed to get the left rear tire tight during the stop and it came off the car, rolling down pit road.
Joey Logano(22) who came to pit road for fresh tires also, had to return to have a wheel tightened before the race when back to green. Blaney lost a lap during his difficulties. Logano was able to stay on the lead lap but restarted near the rear of the field.
Once green flag racing resumed, Blaney was throwing sparks from under his car and well off the pace of race speed. He returned to pit road and lost multiple laps as his crew worked to determine what ailed the race car.
Keselowski held on for the Stage win while Blaney’s car sat jacked up on pit road with the right rear wheel off the car.
Stage One Results
|2||20||Christopher Bell (P)||9|
|3||18||Kyle Busch (P)||8|
|4||14||Chase Briscoe* (P)||7|
|5||5||Kyle Larson (P)||6|
|6||48||Alex Bowman (P)||5|
|8||8||Tyler Reddick (P)||3|
|9||24||William Byron (P)||2|
|10||19||Martin Truex Jr.||1|
*Ford Mustang Driver (P)Playoff Drivers
After Stage ending pit stops, the race restarted with Chris Buscher(17) in the lead followed by Kevin Harvick(4), Hamlin, Ross Chastain(1), and Wallace in the top five spots. Blaney was still on pit road, already 20 laps down to the leader, with his crew working on the rear suspension.
Shortly after going back to green flag racing, Burton spun on the front stretch bringing out the caution again.
Buescher and Harvick will go back to racing side by side when the green waves and the action resumes.
Blaney’s car was taken behind the wall on lap 183, 73 laps down, as work continued on the car and Blaney’s playoff hopes hanging in the balance.
On lap 194, Erik Jones(43) spun on the front stretch causing the fifth caution of the race to be displayed. Bubba Wallace joined Blaney with vehicle repair issues sitting on pit road losing laps.
Attrition was high as Ty Gibbs(23) and Martin Truex Jr.(19) pulled their race cars behind the wall with mechanical issues. Harrison Burton continued to have tire troubles as something is drastically amiss with that car. Wallace also pulled his car back by the hauler in the infield, unable to resolve the issue on his machine.
Buescher continues to lead the race with Harvick driving in his tire tracks as the laps wind down in Stage Two.
Hamlin brought out the sixth caution of the race with a flat tire forcing him into the outside wall on lap 233. Pit stops scramble the running order and it’s Christopher Bell(20) taking the green flag with 10 laps to go in the Stage. Chastain holds down the second spot but has nothing for Bell. As the only driver who knows for sure, that he is moving on to the next round, pulls away for the Stage Win.
Stage Two Results
|1||20||Christopher Bell (P)||10|
|2||1||Ross Chastain (P)||9|
|3||14||Chase Briscoe* (P)||8|
|4||9||Chase Elliott (P)||7|
|5||18||Kyle Busch (P)||6|
|6||48||Alex Bowman (P)||5|
|7||24||William Byron (P)||4|
|8||3||Austin Dillon (P)||3|
|9||5||Kyle Larson (P)||2|
|10||4||Kevin Harvick* (P)||1|
*Ford Mustang Drivers (P) Playoff Drivers
Every driver capturing Stage points was a playoff driver. Attesting to how close the competition for the top 12 spots at the end of this race actually is.
The Final Stage
Bell and Chase Elliott(9) lead the pack to the green flag to start the final Stage. However, Elliott gives up the second spot to his teammates William Byron(24) and Kyle Larson(5) as they use the top groove to roll past Elliott on the bottom lane.
Blaney returns to the track 152 laps down, just as the engine in Kyle Busch’s car expires and he drops out of the race. Busch likely becomes the first driver eliminated in the Round of 16. If so, it is the earliest Busch has ever exited the playoffs since the current format was instituted.
Green flag racing, after the track cleanup, did not last long as Daniel Suarez(99) got loose and crashed into Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(47). Both RCR drivers Austin Dillon(3) and Reddick were involved sending the playoff picture into more chaos.
The incident took Alex Bowman out of the race with damage that could not be repaired. Fortunately for Bowman, with the points he had already accumulated during the race he is safely into the next round.
Reddick was able to return, but Dillon was not. Putting Richard Childress’ grandson out of the 2022 NASCAR Playoffs.
Under the green flag again, Bell and Larson continue to lead with Keselowski replacing Byron in the top three.
On lap 350 Erik Jones had another tire issue as the right rear went flat and the caution waved again. The yellow flag will allow all the lead lap cars to pit within their fuel window to finish the race without another stop. However, tire issues over the final 150 laps of the race could further complicate the running order and the playoff picture.
After the restart and battle for positions settled in, the running order was Larson, Keselowski, Bell, Harvick, and Buescher.
Keselowski, making a late run, took over the lead on lap 388.
More Tire Troubles
With 102 laps to go, Logano had to come to pit road to change a flat tire. He lost three laps in the process. Leaving just 13 cars on the lead lap with 100 laps to go.
On lap 413, Keselowski had a right front tire go down causing him to brush the wall. His shot at the win went away as the number six car lost three laps getting the tire changed. Bell regained the lead, followed by Larson and Harvick.
Bell’s right rear tire went down while leading and the yellow flag came out. The leaders pitted and disaster struck both Harvick and Hamlin as their crews had trouble securing wheels leading to lengthy pit stops.
More turmoil at the front saw Buescher out front when the race went back to green. Elliott ran second, Byron, Larson, and Bell completed the top five. Buescher stretched the lead to almost a second, then lapped traffic impeeded his progress allowing Elliott to close the gap.
With 20 laps to go, it was Buescher by five car lengths over Elliott. The margin never changed much as Buescher became the 19th different winner in 2022 and the third consecutive non-playoff driver to win a playoff race. It had been over 5 years since a Rousch driver put a car in victory lane and this was the first win as an owner for Brad Keselowski.
With no one advancing out of the Round of 16 with a win, points become the determining factor as to who is eliminated.
Every point counts. Tyler Reddick and Kyle Busch failed to advance by just two points each. Austin Cindric the beneficiary of the two-point advantage moves on to the next round. Daniel Suarez’s margin was just five points higher.
Richard Childress Racing lost both its playoff drivers as the result of the wreck that caught both Reddick and Dillon’s cars
The Round of 12 begins next week at Texas Motor Speedway, Talledega follows, with the Roval at Charlotte determining which four drivers will be eliminated in that round. The points reset at the beginning of each round and the standing will look like this as the Round of Eight begins. Briscoe, Bowman, Suarez, and Cindric begin the round below the cut line. Chase Elliott jumps back into the top spot with his 40 bonus points.
*Ford Mustang Drivers
Results of the Bass Pro Shops Night Race from Bristol Motor Speedway
|2||9||Chase Elliott (P)||0.458||500|
|3||24||William Byron (P)||1.667||500|
|4||20||Christopher Bell (P)||1.809||500|
|5||5||Kyle Larson (P)||3.688||500|
|6||1||Ross Chastain (P)||4.106||500|
|9||11||Denny Hamlin (P)||7.884||500|
|10||4||Kevin Harvick (P)||8.421||500|
|14||14||Chase Briscoe (P)||-2||498|
|19||99||Daniel Suarez (P)||-6||494|
|25||8||Tyler Reddick (P)||-31||469|
|27||22||Joey Logano (P)||-63||437|
|29||45||Bubba Wallace (P)||-92||408|
|30||12||Ryan Blaney (P)||-162||338|
|31||3||Austin Dillon (P)||-221||279|
|32||48||Alex Bowman (P)||-223||277|
|33||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||-224||276|
|34||18||Kyle Busch (P)||-231||269|
|36||19||Martin Truex Jr.||-302||198|
(P) Playoff Drivers