NASCAR Pre-Race Media: Saturday Night’s Bass Pro Shops Night Race (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN) race preview

TRACK: Bristol Motor Speedway (.533 mile oval). DISTANCE: 500 Laps — STAGE 1: 125 Laps, STAGE 2: 125 Laps, FINAL STAGE: 250 Laps, MILES (266.5 Miles)

Starting Lineup

WHO WILL WIN Bass Pro Shops Night Race

Kyle Busch

Hard to pick against him. Busch, has three top two finishes in his last four starts on the concrete including a runner-up in each of the last two years of this race. Also, Busch finished runner-up in last year’s All-Star race as well.

Joey Logano

Logano has been stout at Bristol lately too. He has seven top 10s in his last 11 Bristol starts and if not for late race contact with Chase Elliott last spring of 2020, he would have won or at the very least finished second.

Chase Elliott

He nearly won the race last spring, but won the All-Star race instead in July. Elliott, was also fifth in this race in 2019 and third in 2018.

Kyle Larson

In 2018, he was runner-up in both races and sixth and ninth respectively in 2017 too. He’s not raced at Bristol on concrete with HMS.

Top Sleepers?

Kurt Busch

He won this race in 2018. That was his sixth Bristol victory as he’s had three top 10’s in his last four Bristol tries.

Tyler Reddick

He finished fourth in this race a year ago so why not?

Aric Almirola

He was fifth in this race last year and hasn’t fared too bad in Bristol in general.

Matt DiBenedetto

He should have won the 2019 night race. DiBenedetto, led a race-high 93 laps on that August night and would finish runner-up to Denny Hamlin. Now, he’s back with the Wood Brothers, a team that has actually fared well on the concrete oval.

Who To Fade?

Kevin Harvick

Wild to have the defending race winner on here but his win last year was his first top five in his last seven starts. With how this season is for him, I don’t like his chances on Saturday night.

Ryan Blaney

Hes led a lot of laps but has one top five in 11 Bristol starts including his last three finishes being 10th, 40th and 13th respectively.

Martin Truex Jr. 

He’s had one top 10 in his last 17 Bristol tries. He’s been 20th or worse in 13 of the last 15 there at that.

Alex Bowman

He was 37th and 16th last year and 23rd and 15th the year prior.

Race Preview

The final race of the opening round of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs has come upon us. The highly anticipated cutoff race at the Bristol (Tenn) Motor Speedway should be met with fireworks on and off the track on Saturday night.

Last year’s playoff race didn’t necessarily deliver but without a race on the concrete this past spring, will the extra anticipation have the nerves and heart rates high?

A cutoff race though, is spent paying more attention to the bottom part of the standings than the top. That’s because the top drivers know that they likely are advancing to the next round. The bottom? They need help.

Alex Bowman, Tyler Reddick, William Byron and Michael McDowell are all on the outside looking in right now. Who moves on and who doesn’t?

Toyota has swept the first round so far and has a great chance of winning all three races on Saturday night. Denny Hamlin won this race in 2019 and has led 45% (343 of 767) this postseason with finishes of first and second respectively. Kyle Busch has 3 top 2 finishes in his last 4 Bristol starts including three wins in the last six in general. Christopher Bell was runner-up in Loudon and third in Richmond in his last two short track tries.

Kyle Larson has joined Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. to advance on but he’s got a great shot of earning the victory if a JGR car doesn’t. Larson, has five straight top six finishes on the season including 4 of which being in the top three. He had a pair of runner-ups at Bristol in 2019.

Chase Elliott was fourth last week and 3rd, 5th and 7th in the last three Bristol night races.

These are your favorites.

I think the SHR duo does enough to get by with Kevin Harvick having won this race last year but it being his only top five in the last seven there. This was also his last win overall too. He’s had one top five in his last seven starts on the year and only one finish better than fourth all season. He’s been fifth and eighth respectively in the playoffs with 15 stage points, so I think his 25 point cushion gets him by.

Same for Aric Almirola. He was fifth last year and has six stage points this postseason, but has been 14th or worse in nine of his last 10 tries. With the guys below him and how they’ve fared, I think he does just enough to get by too.

Speaking of those guys on the good side of the bubble, Brad Keselowski (+13), KyBusch (+8), Almirola (+3) and Kurt Busch (+0) hold the final four spots but have combined to win 5 of the last 6 at Bristol in general.

Alex Bowman (1 top 5 last 11), Tyler Reddick (2 top 5’s all year), William Byron (5 of last 8 being 23rd or worse) and Michael McDowell (14 straight of 16th or worse) aren’t exactly firing on all cylinders. They’ve combined for six stage points all playoffs. Bowman has been 15th or worse in each of his last four Bristol starts. Byron has been 16th or worse in 5 of his 6 tries. Reddick was fourth last year with McDowell 10th, but they need almost a miracle to get by.

Top Stat

Starting spot is key when you’re starting on the pole (3 winners in last 6, including 2 of the last 3). If you’re not on the pole, you might as well start from outside of the top 10. Four of the last  nine winners have come from Row 6 on back. Plus, Chevy hasn’t won in the last seven points paying Bristol starts and only has two wins in their last 15 starts there too on the concrete.

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