The NASCAR Cup Series playoff picture as it moves into Bristol


1. Denny Hamlin – # 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota (locked up)

  • With his victory at the Southern 500, Hamlin’s place in the round of 16 is guaranteed. He would have driven almost in a row at Richmond as well, finishing second behind teammate Martin Truex Jr.

Also read:

Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry FedEx Ground

Photo by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images

2. Martin Truex Jr.- # 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota (imprisoned)

  • Truex was already in a strong position at Richmond, but a win on the Virginia Short Track automatically pushed him into the next round of the playoffs. Truex now has four wins this season with Larson being the only driver with more.

Also read:

Race winners Martin Truex Jr., Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry

Race winners Martin Truex Jr., Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry

Photo by: Logan Whitton / NKP / Motorsport Images

3. Kyle Larson – No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet (locked up)

  • The dominant driver of the year has not (yet) scored a win in the playoffs, but was still able to lock himself into the next round based on points alone.

Also read:

Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro HendrickCars.com

Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro HendrickCars.com

Photo by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images

4. Joey Logano – No. 22 Team Penske Ford (+40 pts)

  • Logano moved a further 19 points off the cutting line with a fifth place in Richmond, putting him in a very safe position ahead of Bristol. The former champion of the cup series is also a two-time winner on the Bristol Short Track.
Joey Logano, Team Penske, Ford Mustang Shell Pennzoil

Joey Logano, Team Penske, Ford Mustang Shell Pennzoil

Photo by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images

5. Ryan Blaney – No. 12 Team Penske Ford (+28 points)

  • Blaney’s tenth place in Richmond got him a 28-point cushion above the cut line and put him in a fairly safe position. Even so, we saw Kurt Busch’s 26-point buffer completely evaporate after an incident in Richmond. And of course Bristol is a track where anything can go wrong at any time.
Ryan Blaney, Team Penske, Ford Mustang Advance Auto Parts

Ryan Blaney, Team Penske, Ford Mustang Advance Auto Parts

Photo by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images

6. Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford (+25 points)

  • Constantly constant Kevin Harvick finished eighth in Richmond and this season clinched his 18th top ten place in 28 races. He’s the tallest rider in the championship standings without a win in 2021, and another quiet run at Bristol should be more than enough to get him into the last 12.
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Mustang Hunt Brothers Pizza, Joey Logano, Team Penske, Ford Mustang Shell Pennzoil

Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Mustang Hunt Brothers Pizza, Joey Logano, Team Penske, Ford Mustang Shell Pennzoil

Photo by: Logan Whitton / NKP / Motorsport Images

7. Chase Elliott – No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet (+19 points)

  • A 15-point win at Richmond was crucial to getting the reigning serial champion out of the drop zone, but he’s not out of the woods just yet. He did well to recover from a mistake in the pit lane, but a mistake like the one in Bristol could cost him several laps and end his title hopes. He’s never won the famous short circuit, but Elliott has the best average of any active driver there. Like so many others on this list, all he has to do is keep his nose clean and stay out of trouble on Saturday night.
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Kelley Blue Book

Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Kelley Blue Book

Photo by: John Harrelson / NKP / Motorsport Images

8. Christopher Bell – No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota (+17 points)

  • Bell is in a similar situation to Elliott. He moved further from the cut line after a top five finish in Richmond and pushed himself out of the immediate danger zone. But what Bell lacks is experience. He has never been in this position and has only made two Cup starts in Bristol.
Christopher Bell, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry DEWALT salute to first responders

Christopher Bell, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry DEWALT salute to first responders

Photo by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images

9. Brad Keselowski – No. 2 Team Penske Ford (+13 points)

  • Keselowski behaved very calmly in the opening round of the playoffs with places seven and 13. The results are enough to stay afloat but the outgoing Penske rider needs to keep another solid performance or he could quickly fall into the elimination zone.
Brad Keselowski, Team Penske, Ford Mustang Western Star

Brad Keselowski, Team Penske, Ford Mustang Western Star

Photo by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images

10. Kyle Busch – No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota (+8 pts)

  • Busch managed to get back over the line at Richmond, but it was another frustrating race for the two-time Cup Series champion. He was leading late in the race when a speed penalty on the final stop thwarted his efforts.
Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry M & Ms

Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry M & Ms

Photo by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images

11. Aric Almirola – No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford (+3 pts)

  • Almirola managed not to move at all in Richmond, still 11th overall and just three points above the cut line. His buffer is basically non-existent and milestones will be crucial to ensure he doesn’t get knocked out at Bristol.
Aric Almirola, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Mustang Smithfield / Tuesday's Children

Aric Almirola, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Mustang Smithfield / Tuesday’s Children

Photo by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images

12. Kurt Busch – No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet (+0 pts)

  • Kurt Busch was the biggest loser in Richmond. In the initial phase, he was among the top five, a puncture caused him to hit the outer wall and his 26-point pad immediately fizzled out. Now he’s coming to Bristol on the verge of retirement. The only advantage would be that Bristol is a route that has long been dominated by the Busch brothers. Kyle leads the field with eight wins, closely followed by his older brother Kurt with six.
Kurt Busch, Chip Ganassi Racing, Chevrolet Camaro Monster Energy Wrecks

Kurt Busch, Chip Ganassi Racing, Chevrolet Camaro Monster Energy Wrecks

Photo by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images

13. Alex Bowman – No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet (-0 pts)

  • Bowman’s predicament remains unchanged after Richmond. The Hendrick Motorsports driver has taken three wins this season, but a disastrous start to the playoffs has kept Bristol entry in a dangerous position. It’s important that he step it up, otherwise his playoffs could very likely be over.

Also read:

Alex Bowman, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Ally

Alex Bowman, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Ally

Photo by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images

14.Tyler Reddick – No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet (-5 points)

  • Reddick did well to stay within striking distance of the cut line after two races but he will have to do more if he is to avoid being eliminated at Bristol. The only RCR driver in the postseason has positions 18 and 15, which only kept him in the discussion because of the misfortune of his rivals. He has to show a little more speed this weekend or he’ll probably be eliminated.
Aric Almirola, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Mustang Smithfield / Tuesday's Children, Tyler Reddick, Richard Childress Racing, Chevrolet Camaro Childress Vineyards

Aric Almirola, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Mustang Smithfield / Tuesday’s Children, Tyler Reddick, Richard Childress Racing, Chevrolet Camaro Childress Vineyards

Photo by: Logan Whitton / NKP / Motorsport Images

15. William Byron – No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet (-18 pts)

  • A DNF in Darlington and 19th place in Richmond have made Byron the most likely must-see spot in Bristol. Unfortunately, it’s not one of his best tracks. Just a top ten placement of six stars and an average placement of 20.7 isn’t a good sign for the Hendrick driver who needs a fast car and good luck on Saturday night.
William Byron, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Liberty University

William Byron, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Liberty University

Photo by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images

16. Michael McDowell – No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford (-38 pts)

  • McDowell’s chances of promotion were always in doubt. The surprising Daytona 500 winner and underdog of the playoffs crashed in Darlington and fought in Richmond. He would have taken another surprise victory to save him from certain elimination.
Michael McDowell, Front Row Motorsports, Ford Mustang Loves Travel Stops and Corey LaJoie, Spire Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Shavelogic

Michael McDowell, Front Row Motorsports, Ford Mustang Loves Travel Stops and Corey LaJoie, Spire Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Shavelogic

Photo by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images

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