NASCAR Cup race in Bristol: playoff drivers’ bubbles burst

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Cars drive through a bend during a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday September 18, 2021, in Bristol, Tennessee (AP Photo / Mark Humphrey)

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Four of NASCAR’s 16 playoff drivers saw their championship hopes dashed on Saturday night, and the Bristol drama brought the last drivers into the field of 12 in question through the checkered flag. Here is the position of the pilots:

The pilots who advanced

Denny Hamlin: Locked down his place in the round of 12 with a win at Darlington and had another solid run in Bristol despite finishing ninth. He won stage one and finished second in stage 2, but cut a tire after contact with Kyle Larson racing for the lead with around 100 laps to go.

Martin Truex Jr.: Was already ready to move on to the next round after winning last weekend in Richmond, but his run was not as dominant in Bristol. Truex started on pole but lost his leading position early on, then finished in the top 10 on stage two and finished seventh.

Kyle Larson: Has been a consistent leader in Bristol, winning the second stage and finishing first to close the race. Larson was already stuck in the next round based on points before tonight.

Joey Logano: Gained a few more points before the end of the race despite the first two stage finishes in the top 10. Logano made a long pitstop early, then finished 12th in stage 2.

Ryan Blaney: Controlled the race in part of the final stage, battling with Bristol veteran Kevin Harvick for first place. He secured his place in the round of 16 before the third stage on points.

Kevin Harvick: Pulled into the lead from the restart in the last stage, but quickly fell to second behind Ryan Blaney. Harvick reclaimed his place from P1 in the last 100 laps and ran in the top three in the last 100 laps. He secured his place on the next lap on points after the second stage and led the field on the last stage for several restarts at the end of the race.

Chase Elliott: Had a relatively calm night halfway through the race but led laps in the first stage and the last 100 laps. Elliott’s pit with a puncture after light contact with Harvick racing for the lead. Elliott moved on to the next lap based on points after Anthony Alfredo left the race on the last lap.

Christophe bell: Advance to the next round on points after finishing third last weekend in Richmond. Bell under the green at the end of the race with serious damage to the body of his car.

Brad Keselowski: Had a solid evening, with a sixth place and will advance in points.

Kyle Busch: Pit under green flag with about 40 laps to go. He finished 21st.

Alex Bowman: He entered the finals nine points over the limit and was told he was racing with teammate William Byron for the transfer. Bowman and Byron both ran in the top 10 on the final stage.

Guillaume Byron: Entered the last stage with a nine point lead until the cutoff, and ran to fifth place with about 75 laps remaining.

Drivers outside the playoffs

Aric Almirola: Bounced back from an oil leak early in the race while sitting near the cutoff before Saturday night. Almirola sat down at +16 to enter the final stage after overcoming the early dramas but fell to 17th and just +1 in the final 80 laps with Hendrick Motorsports cars in the top 10.

Kurt Busch: He said he was hoping for a “nice and sweet night” before tonight’s race as he came in with Alex Bowman in points at the cup line, but Busch’s night was not so fluid that he needed. He struggled with the balance of his car and ran a lap for much of the final stage.

Tyler Reddick: It also took a stronger race to move on to the next lap. Reddick ran in the last 20 for much of the race, was able to come undone in the last stage, but it wasn’t enough.

Michael McDowell: I needed a win to move forward, but I ran at least one lap late for most of the race. It’s the end of the playoffs for the winner of the Daytona 500.

This story was originally published September 18, 2021 11:12 pm.

NASCAR and Charlotte FC reporter Alex Andrejev joined The Observer in January 2020 after an internship at the Washington Post. She played Division I volleyball at Columbia University before earning her masters degree from the University of Southern California.
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