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Here’s everything you need to know about Xfinity Series playoff opener at Kentucky

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The NASCAR Xfinity Series kicks off its seven-race playoffs Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway in the VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300.

Thanks to our friends at Racing Insights, here’s a primer on the race, the 12 drivers that have qualified for the playoffs, and the history of Kentucky Speedway:

Kentucky Notes

  • This weekend’s race is the 23rd NXS event at Kentucky Speedway and the first of the 2017 Playoffs
  • The stage end laps for this weekend’s race are lap 45, lap 90 and lap 200
  • 2017 is the sixth season where the NXS will race twice a year at Kentucky, Kentucky will host only one race in 2018
  • The first NXS race at Kentucky was in June 2001 and was won by Kevin Harvick
  • The last eight races at Kentucky were won from a top-seven starting position
  • 20 of the 22 NXS Kentucky races were won from a top-10 starting position including eight from pole
  • Kyle Busch, with two, is the only repeat winner at Kentucky in the last seven races
  • Joe Gibbs Racing drivers won the pole for the last four races at Kentucky with three different drivers
  • Joe Gibbs Racing (five), Team Penske (five), Richard Childress Racing (three) and JR Motorsports (two) combined won the last 15 NXS races at Kentucky
  • The pass for the win came in the final nine laps in five of the last seven races at Kentucky
  • The winner of only two of the last 10 races at Kentucky got his first win of the season
  • Two races at Kentucky ended in an overtime finish (9/15 and 7/16)
  • The driver leading the most laps won only two of the last seven races at Kentucky
  • There were 12 cautions in this race last year, the most ever in a NXS race at Kentucky, the average green flag stretch was 10 laps
  • The track record set July 2016 of 187.318 mph (28.828 seconds) by Kyle Busch was over six MPH faster than the prior track record set in June 2005 by Carl Edwards (181.287 mph, 28.787 seconds)
  • Eight of the last 11 poles at Kentucky were won by Non-Cup Competitors
  • 11 of the 22 NXS Kentucky races were won by Non-Cup Competitors including six of the last 11
  • Elliott Sadler led only 11 laps when he won at Kentucky last September, the fewest led by a winner in the last 16 races there
  • The final green flag stretch was nine laps or less in seven of the last nine races at Kentucky
  • Austin Dillon, 2012, is the only driver to sweep both races at Kentucky in a season; his first two NXS wins came at Kentucky in 2012
  • There were eight speeding penalties at Kentucky in July, more than the prior three races at Kentucky combined
  • The last driver to recover from an in race infraction at Kentucky to go on to win was Joey Logano in June 2009 who rebounded from a speeding penalty to win
  • Joe Gibbs Racing drivers led 437 of the 601 laps raced at Kentucky since the repave prior to 2016 (73%)
  • Ryan Blaney is the only driver to finish in the top-10 in all three races at Kentucky since the reconfiguration

1.5 Mile Track Highlights

  • This weekend’s race is seventh race on a 1.5 mile track in 2017
  • Five of the seven Playoff races in 2017 are on 1.5 mile tracks
  • Justin Allgaier won at Chicagoland last week from a starting position of 14th, the only race won from outside a top-10 starting position on a 1.5 mile track in the last 24 races
  • Five drivers won the six races on 1.5 mile tracks in 2017, Kyle Busch with two is the only repeat winner
  • Only two of the last 10 races on 1.5 mile tracks were won by Non-Cup competitors (Justin Allgaier at Chicagoland in 2017 and Daniel Suarez at Homestead in 2016)

Who is Hot Entering Kentucky:

No. 20 Ryan Preece

  • Won at Iowa and finished second at New Hampshire in his two starts in 2017, both with JGR
  • Finished 15th and 30th in his two NXS Kentucky starts
  • 15th place finish at Kentucky in July 2016 is his best finish on a 1.5 mile track

No. 3 Brian Scott

  • Finished third at Iowa in 2017 in his only start of 2017
  • Finished Kentucky best second in September 2014, one of two top-10 finishes at the track
  • Finished top-10 in each of his last two starts on 1.5 mile tracks but his last was at Homestead in Nov. 2015

No. 22 Sam Hornish Jr.

  • Won two of his last seven starts including a win at Mid-Ohio in his last
  • Finished top-10 in five of his six NXS Kentucky starts with a best finish of second in September 2012
  • Making his first NXS start on a 1.5 mile track since finishing fourth in this race last year

No. 7 Justin Allgaier (Second in playoffs)

  • 13 top-10s in 2017 with two wins (Phoenix and Chicagoland)
  • 495 laps led in 2017 are his most ever in a single season
  • Finished top-10 in five of the last seven races of 2017
  • Six top-10 finishes in 10 NXS Kentucky starts
  • Top-10 finishes in three of the last five races on 1.5 mile tracks including his win at Chicagoland last race

No. 9 William Byron (First in playoffs)

  • Won three of the last 13 races of 2017
  • Finished in the top-10 in 11 of the last 14 races (finished 25th at Mid-Ohio, 22nd at Bristol and 33rd at Chicagoland)
  • Finished seventh at Kentucky in July in his only NXS start at the track
  • Won the 2016 Truck race at Kentucky
  • Best finish in the NXS on a 1.5 mile track is seventh (three times)

No. 00 Cole Custer (Eighth in playoffs)

  • 13 top-10 finishes in 2017 including four top-five finishes
  • Finished top-10 in seven of the last 10 races of 2017
  • Led 41 laps last race at Chicagoland, more than he had in his career prior
  • Has never finished in the top-10 at Kentucky (finished 32nd and 11th in his two NXS starts there and 14th in his only Truck start there)
  • Five top-10 finishes in 10 starts on 1.5 mile tracks with a best of fourth at Charlotte in May 2016

No. 1 Elliott Sadler (Third in playoffs)

  • 19 top-10 finishes and 11 top-five finishes in 2017 lead all drivers
  • Regular season champion
  • One win (9/16) and eight top-10 finishes at Kentucky in 12 starts
  • Finished third at Chicagoland last race, his 11th top-10 finish on a 1.5 mile track in the last 13 races

No. 48 Brennan Poole (Fifth in playoffs)

  • Finished top-10 in seven of the last 10 races of 2017, 12 times total
  • Won his first NXS pole at Daytona-2
  • Two top-10 finishes in five NXS Kentucky starts
  • 2014 ARCA win at Kentucky
  • Only one top-10 finish on a 1.5 mile track this season (eighth at Charlotte)

No. 21 Daniel Hemric (Fourth in playoffs)

  • Finished top-10 in 12 of his 26 NXS starts with a best finish of second at Mid-Ohio
  • Finished top-10 in six of the last nine races of 2017
  • Three of his five top-five finishes in 2017 came in the last six races
  • Three top-10s in the six races on 1.5 mile tracks in 2017 (best of fourth at Chicagoland last race)
  • Finished ninth at Kentucky in July in his only NXS start at the track

Not Hot Entering Kentucky:

No. 42 Tyler Reddick

  • Three top-10 finishes in 2017 in 14 starts but none in his last five starts
  • Finished 10th at Kentucky in July in his only start at the track in the NXS, it was his last top-10 finish
  • Finished 10th in two of his three NXS stats on 1.5 mile tracks

No. 62 Brendan Gaughan (11th in Playoffs)

  • Only seven top-10 finishes in 2017, had 13 through 26 races in 2016
  • Matched his best finish of 2017 at Road America (fifth)
  • Eight top-10 finishes at Kentucky are his most of all tracks
  • Last NXS win came at Kentucky in this race in 2014
  • Finished ninth at Charlotte, only top-10 finish on a 1.5 mile track this season

No. 5 Michael Annett (12th in Playoffs)

  • Finished NXS best second at Road America but it is his only finish better than 12th in the last 12 races
  • Only three stage top-10 finishes in 2017, all three on plate tracks
  • Five top-10 finishes at Kentucky are his most on a track
  • Only two top-15 finishes on 1.5 mile tracks this season

No. 23 Spencer Gallagher

  • Finished 10th at Richmond in April, his second career top-10 finish, but has only four top-15 finishes this season
  • Finished 14th at Chicagoland, his best finish in the last 10 races
  • Finished 13th at Kentucky in July in his only NXS start there, his second best finish of 2017
  • Finished top-14 in three of the last four races on 1.5 mile tracks

No. 33 Brandon Jones

  • Only three top-10 finishes in 2017 and none in the last seven races
  • Had 11 top-10 finishes after 26 races in 2017 and was in the playoffs
  • Finished 12th at Chicagoland, his best finish in the last seven races of 2017
  • Finished fifth at Kentucky in September 2015, his only top-10 finish in four starts
  • Only one top-10 finish in the last 11 races on 1.5 mile tracks

No. 16 Ryan Reed (Sixth in playoffs)

  • Has a win and five top-10 finishes in 2017
  • Finished 12th at Richmond, his best finish in his last eight races
  • Finished seventh in this race last year, his best finish in seven Kentucky starts
  • Only two top-10 finishes on 1.5 mile tracks but both came in the last 11 races

Warm Entering Kentucky:

No. 11 Blake Koch (Ninth in Playoffs)

  • Only four top-10 finishes in 2017 but three of the four came in the last eight races
  • Finished top-14 in seven of the last eight races of 2017 including the last six
  • 11 NXS Kentucky starts with a best finish of 11th in this race last year
  • Two top-10 finishes on 1.5 mile tracks (ninth at Kansas in 10/16 and ninth at Chicagoland 9/17)

No. 19 Matt Tifft (10th in playoffs)

  • Seven top-10 finishes in 2017
  • Finished top-10 in three of the last six races of 2017 including his career best finish of third (twice)
  • Finished top-15 in all three starts at Kentucky, his most of all-tracks, including two top-10s (best of fifth in this race last year)
  • Six top-10 finishes in 12 starts on 1.5 mile tracks

No. 18 Kyle Benjamin

  • Started on the front-row in all four NXS starts but has only one top-15 finish (second at Iowa2)
  • Making his first NXS start on a 1.5 mile track

Also in playoffs:

No. 51 Jeremy Clements (7th in playoffs)

• Win at Road America put him into the Playoffs and gave him his five Playoff points
• Finished the regular season 17th in points
• One top-five finish and two top-10 finishes in 2017 (win at Road America, seventh at Iowa1)
• 13 NXS Kentucky starts with a best finish of 12th (twice) including this race last year
• Best NXS final season point ranking prior to 2017 was 14th in 2012 and 2015

Recent NXS Trends

  • 14 different drivers won the 26 races in 2017
  • Nine races in 2017 were won by Non-Cup Competitors, five of the nine were won by JR Motorsports drivers
  • Seven of the last 13 races of 2017 were won by Non-Cup Competitors
  • The driver leading the most laps failed to win in seven of the last 11 races including the last four
  • 15 of the last 17 races of 2017 were won from a top-eight starting position, Jeremy Clements won from 24th at Road America (the lowest starting position of a race winner this season) and Justin Allgaier won from 14th at Chicagoland last race
  • Six of the last 11 races of 2017 were won from pole
  • The final green flag stretch was eight laps or less in six of the last eight races of 2017
  • The final green flag stretch at New Hampshire was 104 laps, the longest green flag stretch in a race this season
  • Five races in 2017 were won by drivers rebounding from pit road infractions: Ryan Reed at Daytona (Crew over wall too soon), Kyle Larson at Auto Club Speedway (Speeding), Erik Jones at Bristol (Speeding), Kyle Busch at Watkins Glen (Drove thru too many boxes) and Kyle Busch at Bristol-2 (Speeding)
  • Two races in 2017 were won from drivers starting in the rear under penalty: Ryan Blaney at Charlotte and William Byron at Daytona2
  • Sam Hornish Jr.’s pole time at Mid-Ohio set a new track record, Brad Keselowski’s round one time set a new track record at Las Vegas, Kyle Larson’s pole winning time at Bristol set a new track record
  • 19 stages in 2017 were won by NXS eligible drivers: Elliott Sadler (five), Justin Allgiaer (three), William Byron, Daniel Hemric and Blake Koch (two), Darrell Wallace Jr. , Brendan Gaughan, Ryan Preece, Sam Hornish Jr. and James Davison (one)
  • Nine of the 26 races in 2017 were slowed due to red flags
  • There were 12 cautions at Charlotte, most in a race this season
  • There were only three cautions at Pocono, New Hampshire and Richmond2, the fewest in a race this season
  • Five races in 2017 ended with an overtime finish (Daytona-1, Richmond, Daytona-2, Iowa-2 and Darlington)
  • 11 of the 25 poles in 2017 were won by Non-Cup competitors
  • Eight drivers won their first pole in 2017, only one driver got his first pole in 2016 and only two in 2015
  • The pass for the win came in the final 10 laps in 10 of the 26 races this season and in the final four laps seven times
  • Two races in 2017 ended with a last lap pass for the win (Pocono and Michigan)
  • Four races in 2017 had issues with weather: Bristol (slowed mid-race), Daytona2 (started one day, completed another and slowed mid-race), Kentucky (postponed from Friday night to Saturday), New Hampshire (slowed mid-race)
  • Only twice has a driver swept both stages and won the race: Brad Keselowski at Pocono and Kyle Busch at Bristol-2

NXS 2017 Season Breakdown:

* Different Winners: 14
* Different Pole Winners: 15
* Non Cup Winners: 6 (William Byron-3, Justin Allgaier -2, Sam Hornish Jr., Ryan Preece, Ryan Reed and Jeremy Clements-1)
* Most Wins: 5- Kyle Busch
* Most Poles: 7- Kyle Busch
* Most Runner Ups: 5 – Ryan Blaney
* Most Top-fives: 11 – Elliott Sadler
* Most Top-10s: 19 –Elliott Sadler
* Most Laps Led: 731 – Kyle Busch

Among NXS Eligible Drivers

* Most Stage Wins: 5- Elliott Sadler (Brad Keselowski has the most of all drivers with eight)
* Most Stage Top-fives: 24 – Elliott Sadler
* Most Stage Top-10s: 36 –Elliott Sadler

Best Finishing NXS Driver in each Race:
* Daytona: Ryan Reed 1st
* Atlanta: Elliott Sadler 5th
* Las Vegas: Justin Allgaier 4th
* Phoenix: Justin Allgaier 1st
* Auto Club Speedway: William Byron 5th
* Texas: Cole Custer 5th
* Bristol: Elliott Sadler 4th
* Richmond: Justin Allgaier 2nd
* Talladega: Elliott Sadler 2nd
* Charlotte: Cole Custer 7th
* Dover: Cole Custer 4th
* Pocono: Justin Allgaier 2nd
* Michigan: William Byron 2nd
* Iowa: William Byron 1st
* Daytona: William Byron 1st
* Kentucky: William Byron 7th
* New Hampshire: Ryan Preece 2nd
* Indianapolis: William Byron 1st
* Iowa: Ryan Preece 1st
* Watkins Glen: Justin Allgaier 4th
* Mid-Ohio: Sam Hornish Jr. 1st
* Bristol2: Elliott Sadler 3rd
* Road America: Jeremy Clements 1st
* Darlington: William Byron 5th
* Richmond: Daniel Hemric 4th
* Chicagoland: Justin Allgaier 1st

Track History

  • The founder and developer of Kentucky Speedway was Jerry Carroll the former owner of Turfway Park. The speedway is located in Sparta KY the county seat of Gallatin County the smallest county by land area in Kentucky. The county has under 9,000 residents. Sparta has an area of 5.6 square miles and a population under 300.The track has hosted the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series since the 2000 season and the NASCAR Nationwide Series since 2001. Indy Car races were held from 2000 to 2011.
  • Constructed on 850 acres, 63 miles from Louisville, 35 miles from Cincinnati, and 150 miles from Indianapolis, Kentucky Speedway is a 1.5-mile tri-oval with 14-degree banking in the turns and a 1,600-foot backstretch. The tri-oval is 57-feet wide and includes a 12-foot apron. The facility also includes a paved quarter-mile track. Ground was broke July 18, 1998; Opened June 16, 2000; Cost: $153,000,000. Was the largest excavation project ever in Kentucky. Nearly 7 million people live within a 100-mile radius
  • Kentucky Speedway opened with 66,000 seats, went to 106,000 Seats in 2011 and to 86,000 seats in 2017.
  • Parking For More Than 50,000 Cars (was 30,000 in 2011)
  • After many years of campaigning for a Cup race, the track was sold to Speedway Motorsports, Inc. (SMI) on January 1, 2009 for $78.3 million. On August 10, 2010, NASCAR announced a Sprint Cup Race at Kentucky Speedway in 2011 as part of a triple header weekend. The weekend took the place of the Chicagoland Speedway date, which moved to September to be the leadoff race in the 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup. It was the first Cup race awarded to a track since 2001.
  • In June 2012 the State of Kentucky completed projects that expanded Kentucky Highway 35 to seven lanes, widened the I-71 ramp to Ky. Hwy. 35 to three lanes and constructed a pedestrian tunnel that connects the massive Ford Parking lot east of Ky. Hwy. 35 to Kentucky Speedway. In addition to acquiring and engineering 170 new acres for the Ford Parking lot, Kentucky Speedway converted 50 new acres of previously unusable land to parking and added gravel aisles to 100 acres of previously all-grass parking. In total, the projects yielded parking for an additional 20,000 vehicles compared to 2011 bringing the total to 50,000. These changes eliminated the horrendous traffic/parking snafus from the inaugural race in 2011.
  • Kentucky Speedway did a complete repave of the track for the 2016 season, and also reconfigured turns 1-2.
  • — Turn 1-2 banking changed from 14 degrees to 17 degrees
  • — Turn 1-2 narrowed from 74 feet to 56 feet
  • — Banking in the tri-oval was changed from 8 degrees to 8-10 degrees
  • — 3,200 feet of SAFER-Barrier was added
  • Kentucky Speedway added an additional surface repave in October 2016

Kentucky State Factoids

  • The Kentucky Derby is the oldest continuously held horse race in the country. It is held at Churchill Downs in Louisville on the first Saturday in May.
  • Chevrolet Corvettes are manufactured in Bowling Green.
  • The first Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant owned and operated by Colonel Sanders is located in Corbin, KY.

 

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Clint Bowyer: ‘Getting back to our consistency’ ahead of next round

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After entering Saturday’s Cup race at Bristol in the final transfer spot to the Round of 12, Clint Bowyer can rest easy for now.

Bowyer is one of the 12 drivers left to fight for the Cup title after his sixth-place finish Saturday. He goes into next weekend’s race at Las Vegas 11th in the standings.

Now, Bowyer says it’s time for his No. 14 team to “live up to our capabilities.”

“I just feel comfortable, we’re getting back to our consistency,” Bowyer said Saturday night. “I guess for a long time in my career I was kind of Steady Eddie, and that’s what it takes in these playoffs, to go the rounds, you can’t make mistakes. I said that going into these playoffs. For our team, we’ve got to live up to our capabilities, and if we can do that and race to our capabilities and not make the mistakes we were making through the summer months, we can contend and move forward rounds in this playoff system, and that’s what we’re doing.”

Bowyer, who was the last driver to finish on the lead lap at Bristol, goes to Las Vegas with three consecutive top 10s to start the playoffs.

Before the playoffs opened, he had gone 11 races with just two top 10s.

“Looking forward to getting out to Sin City and having some fun out there,” Bowyer said. “Hopefully we can double down, get some stage points and continue to march forward up through this playoff system and the points. We’re definitely starting behind again, there’s no question about that.”

Bowyer will start the second round with 3,004 points, tied with Kyle Busch. Kurt Busch is 12th with 3,001 points.

MORE: Points entering second round

“We’ve got to get out there and swing for the fence,” Bowyer said. “These are the playoffs; you don’t base hit it. Steady Eddie got us through this round, but from here on you’ve got to get up to the plate and swing for the fence every time, and every decision, and that’s in the car and out of the car, we’ve got to lay it on the line and go for it, and that’s why these playoffs are fun.

Bowyer has just one top-five finish in 17 Las Vegas starts (2009) and the most recent of his four top 10s there came in 2017.

Then comes the “crapshoot” know as Talladega and the “fun” Charlotte Roval.

“I like it. I’m ready,” Bowyer said. “Things can happen. At the end of the day I’ve had a different approach to the whole thing this year. This whole damned year has been chaotic and everything else, and you’ve just got to go out there and do the best you can do and not worry about or panic about anything else. That’s all you can do anyway.”

Bristol winners and losers

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WINNERS

Kevin Harvick Only two drivers in the last quarter century have won 10 Cup races in a season (Jimmie Johnson in 2007 and Jeff Gordon in 1996-98). Harvick’s win at Bristol marked his career-high ninth of the season. He appears headed to join that elite class.

Austin Dillon His 12th-place finish wasn’t memorable but it was good enough to advance to the second round of the playoffs. He had failed to transfer from the first round the last two times he was in the playoffs.

Kyle BuschFinished second, scoring top-10 finishes in all three first-round playoff races. It’s the first time this season he has had three consecutive top 10s. Still, a frustrated Busch was critical of competitors and his playoff hopes.

Erik Jones His third-place finish matches his best of the season. Result came after he had to start at the rear for inspection issues (just as Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin also had to do so).

Michael McDowell His 10th-place finish is his fourth top 10 of the season. That equals how many top 10s he scored from 2017-19.

Chase Briscoe He won the Xfinity race Saturday at Bristol for his seventh victory of the season.

Sam MayerThe 17-year-old won his first career Truck race and followed it a few hours later by winning the ARCA race at Bristol.

LOSERS

Ryan Blaney Failed to advance to the second round, a round where he could be among the favorites to win a race. He was in position to win at Las Vegas in the spring before being called to pit before the overtime restart and losing the lead. He’s won the past two Talladega races, including last year’s playoff race there. He won the inaugural Charlotte Roval in 2018. What might have been. But a 10-point penalty for an inspection issue at Darlington and struggles there and at Richmond doomed him.

William Byron His playoffs ended with contact before the halfway mark. 

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Contact with Jimmie Johnson sent him into the wall. Stenhouse finished last. It is the third time he’s finished 40th this season.

Kevin Harvick wins Bristol night race

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Kevin Harvick held off Kyle Busch to win Saturday’s Cup night race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Harvick came out on top after a spirited battle with Busch over the last 40 laps of the race. Harvick claimed his ninth win of the season, a career-best mark. He previous high was eight wins in 2018.

“To beat Kyle Busch at Bristol, I kind of got myself in a little bit of a ringer there,” Harvick told NBCSN. “I hit a lapped car and got a hole in the right-front nose, but just kept fighting. We don’t have anything else to lose. We were here to try to win a race.”

The top five was completed by Erik Jones, Tyler Reddick and Aric Almirola. Clint Bowyer finished sixth and was the last car on the lead lap.

MORE: Race results, points standings

MORE: What drivers said after the race

Busch, who is now winless through the first 29 races of the season, finished second after he started from the rear due to two pre-race inspection failures. He took the lead for the first time when he left pit road first during the Stage 1 break. He wound up leading 159 laps to Harvick’s 226.

Harvick’s nine victories has him on pace to become the first driver to win at least 10 Cup races in a season in more than a decade and only the third driver to reach that mark in the past quarter century. Harvick has won three of the last five races.

“It’s just been a weird year, but it’s been an unbelievable year on the racetrack,” Harvick said. “I can’t thank everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing enough.”

Jimmie Johnson is the last driver to accomplish the feat. He won 10 races in 2007. The only other driver to reach that mark in the last 25 years is Jeff Gordon. He won 13 races in 1998 and 10 races each in 1996 and ’97.

The last driver not from Hendrick Motorsports to reach at least 10 wins in a season was Rusty Wallace. He won 10 times in 1993 for car owner Roger Penske.

Ryan Blaney, Matt DiBenedetto, William Byron and Cole Custer entered the race below the cutline to advance to the Round of 12 and were all eliminated from contention.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Chase Elliott

STAGE 2 WINNER: Kyle Busch

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Erik Jones earned his second top five in the last three races … Tyler Reddick earned his third top five of the season and his first since the July 19 race at Texas … Ryan Preece placed ninth for his first top 10 of the year … Michael McDowell finished 10th for his fourth top 10 this season, a career-best

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished last after he was eliminated in a crash on Lap 29 after he made contact with Jimmie Johnson … Matt DiBenedetto’s chances of advancing in the playoffs were dashed when he had to pit for loose right rear tire on Lap 187 and then was caught speeding on pit road after returning to the lead lap. He finished 19th …. Martin Truex Jr. finished 24th after he had to pit for a tire issue on Lap 214 … Denny Hamlin finished 21st after he rammed into the back of Truex moments after he exited pit road following his stop … William Byron was eliminated from the race and playoff contention late in Stage 2 after he ran into the back of Christopher Bell … Pole-sitter Brad Keselowski placed 34th after he lost power steering early in the final stage and was black flagged for not meeting minimum speeding. After a lengthy stay in the garage, Keselowski returned to the race with about 105 laps left in the race.

WHAT’S NEXT: Round of 12 opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway at 7 p.m. ET Sept. 27 on NBCSN.

 

What drivers said after Bristol night race

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Kevin Harvick – winner: “We had just a really, really good Busch Light Ford Mustang tonight. I got it a little dinged up with 50 or 60 laps to go. I knocked a hole in the nose and made it a little too tight through the center of the corner, but turned into a heck of a race, in and out of traffic there with Kyle (Busch). He got me once pinned up there in traffic and I was able to do the same thing back and then hold the lead there until the end. Just really proud of everybody for everything that they’ve done all year and just continuing to fight, and there’s not many races that you can win that are like winning here at the Bristol night race. That was a lot of fun.”

Kyle Busch – finished 2nd: “Frustrated over finishing second.  You know, just felt like this was one of our greater shots to win, and I don’t know. You know, just come up short. You know, Skittles Camry was fast and we had a good car, one that was in contention all night long.  Fired off the start of the race, I was like, oh, wow, this is a pretty good car and then got beat by another really good car, I guess.”

Erik Jones – finished 3rd: “I guess it was a solid day. I thought we had a good car there at the end. But had to start at the back and that took a while to work through there and get some track position. It is really challenging to pass here, even though it is a short track. But a good run. The Auto Owners Camry got better all night, and honestly the last run of the race was our best. We got up there into third and I kind of knew I couldn’t beat those guys straight up, so I tried to save a little bit on the front side of the run and run at the end hard, and just kind of ran out of time. I just started getting to those guys there when we took the checkered.”

Tyler Reddick – finished 4th: “Our No. 8 Childress Vineyards Chevrolet Camaro was a fast one tonight, and we had a great finish to show for it at Bristol Motor Speedway. It took a couple adjustments to get our car to where I needed it to be, but our communication as a team on what adjustments to make has been a big focus for us over the past few weeks and that paid off during tonight’s race. I fired off a little loose on the bottom and tight on the top, so our team had a decision to make on what to focus on. I felt that the top the better groove for our car, so we chose to work on loosening up our Chevrolet a little bit throughout the night and got it in a really good spot for the final stage.

“Those adjustments made it so I was able to cut through traffic during that last stage and race our way into the top five for the last 100 laps or so. I think I may have pushed my front tires a little bit too much on that final run, but this was a really good night for our team. We’re chasing wins in these remaining races while also working on building a strong notebook for next year, and this is a solid step in the right direction for both of those goals.”

Aric Almirola – finished 5th: “We had a solid top five tonight at Bristol and we’re moving on to the Round of 12 again. It was a great run. We missed it a bit to start. This Smithfield Ford team worked so hard to make the right adjustments all night. I was scrapping in the car to get everything I could get. Really proud of everybody on the race team. Ready to see if we can’t make it happen again in this next round.”

Clint Bowyer – finished 6th: “We definitely did what we needed to do. Our Rush Truck Centers/Cummins Engine Ford Mustang was pretty good tonight. We were just way too loose to run with (Harvick or Busch). The cycle on the tires when we actually had that caution, had a cycle on the tires and that usually makes it tighter and that was by far our best run. We drove up through them pretty good and put ourselves in position there, but as soon as the green flag dropped right there at the end I was right back loose again.  We did what we had to do. Obviously, you come here to win a race and be on top of that building over there, but proud of the guys and all their efforts.  We’re moving forward and that’s all that matters right now.”

Chase Elliott – finished 7th: “Definitely excited to move on in the playoffs. I thought the NAPA team had a solid race tonight. It’s unfortunate the way the pit cycle went there, but I felt like we were close. Not sure if we were as good as (Harvick) and (Kyle Busch), but I thought we were close to them. I am proud of the effort and I hope this next round is good for us. It’s definitely not going to get any easier as it goes. Nice to get the stage point and stage win and we will try again in Vegas.”

Ryan Preece – finished 9th: “That was a really fun night at Bristol Motor Speedway. This year has obviously had its challenges for us, and we’ve worked so hard to try and make the strategy play in our favor and get JTG Daugherty Racing the finish we deserve and it feels really good to be able to put it all together. Our BUSH’S Beans Chevrolet was really good on the long run … The cautions finally fell our way and we were able to capitalize on it. Every week for the rest of the season is so important to keep focusing on the positives and get as many good finishes as we can and to be able to get BUSH’S Beans as top-10 finish at their home track is something we’re all proud of.”

Michael McDowell – finished 10th: “Well, what an awesome night for our No. 34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford Mustang. We got a top-10 at Bristol. I’m really proud of everybody at Front Row Motorsports. I’m so thankful to Bob Jenkins and all of my guys for giving me this opportunity. It’s the best season that I’ve ever had and another top 10 really helps to keep our momentum rolling. We also have a Ford in Victory Lane, so that’s awesome. I’m just super-excited to get a top 10 at Bristol.”

Joey Logano – finished 11th: “We had a car that was probably top five. It wasn’t as good as (Harvick and Busch) but we had something that was competitive and had that longer run with a loose right rear wheel and we tried to make it last long and it started to get pretty bad. Here, if you go too long it will ruin your chances for the day. It felt like we were late enough in the run that maybe we would start to cycle if we pit. We were so close. The caution was because of (Harvick) pitting and bottling everyone up. We were probably 10 or 15 laps from the cycle being complete and getting our lap back and being in contention for an even better finish. That is how it goes sometimes. We had a solid car and we have a lot of momentum still into the playoffs with three really solid runs outside of one little hiccup here. We will move on to the next round and be happy.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 12th: “We did what we had to do tonight in our Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Off Road/ E-Z-GO Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. We advanced to the Round of 12 in the NASCAR Playoffs. We started off really strong, but our Chevy ended up getting extremely tight in Stage 2. We recovered from that and were running in the top 10 when Harvick slowed on the track to make a green-flag pit stop. I got on my brakes as hard as I could to avoid hitting him, but a lapped car was in the middle of the track and I had nowhere to go. My RCR team did a great job making repairs, but we were never able to catch the break we needed to get back into the top five. Our car was fast overall tonight, though, and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish during the remainder of the season. We’ll go to Las Vegas next week and try to get a win.”

Ryan Blaney – finished 13th: “We started off tight and then that second run we got really tight after the competition caution and lost a lot of track position. After that, we kind of were able to drive up through there. We got to fifth or sixth the one time and we were super tight again and it went really long. That just kind of made it worse and we just kind of got behind there. The track just swung really tight. I was kind of tight all night, but it just swung really tight on us and that was just the wrong direction that the track needed to be at. That stinks.”

Kurt Busch – finished 15th: “It was a good day, we had a loose wheel and we battled after that, but our stage points are what really helped the Monster Energy Chevy tonight. That gave us the cushion we needed to absorb the problem that we had. All-in-all we advanced and that’s what we expected to do and that is what we have to continue to do. We will do it through teamwork and execution. The next round we have a mile-and-a-half Superspeedway and then the Roval. We’ve just got to be on our toes, keep adjusting and adapt to all the things that are coming our way in the next round.”

Alex Bowman – finished 16th: “That was pretty eventful. We had a really good car all night. Our Axalta Camaro was really fast. Probably going to end up somewhere in the top five, at least the top 10. We just had a tire issue under green there in the last stage and had to pit. Unfortunately, we were not in our window to pit. Once the caution did come out, we weren’t able to take the wave around. We were just kind of trapped there and unfortunately couldn’t recover from that. … So awesome to advance to the next round. Proud of my team. This is the strongest we have been going into the Round of 12. I feel like we have some great tracks for us coming up. This is the most consistent we have been as a race team. I am bummed we lost our streak of top-10 finishes, but we have plenty more opportunities throughout the year to have great cars and contend for wins. Wish we would have ended up a little better, but we are ready for Vegas.”

Ty Dillon – Finished 18th: “Our Germain Racing team battled all night long. It was a really good night for our GEICO Camaro ZL1 1LE. Everyone on our team executed throughout the entire race, from Matt (Borland) making good calls, the pit crew having great stops and Chris (Monez) on the spotter stand helping me navigate traffic. We all worked hard and it paid off. The car was its best at the end of the race, which is all you can ask for as a driver. I’m proud of our effort and we will keep digging to finish strong.”

Matt DiBenedetto – finished 19th: “If we didn’t have bad luck, we wouldn’t have any luck at all. I don’t know. It’s just frustrating. I hate it. I want to get Menards and Dutch Boy and this team a good run like they deserve because we’ve had a rough couple weeks, and had a loose wheel, overcome it — drive through the entire field with a lot of green flag. We get to seventh, hoping for a caution, but either way we drove to the top 10 — good run — and I was screaming, ‘Debris in (Turn) 1,’ three damn times and we found it. We ran it over multiple times and I cut the right-rear down and it just ruins our day.”

John Hunter Nemechek – finished 20th: “The crew put together a solid top 15, maybe even top-10 car tonight at Bristol. Our No. 38 Mystik Lubricants Ford Mustang was decent on the long run, but we struggled a little with drive off. After the first stage, it was looking like we were going to have a decent night. We tried a couple of different adjustments on pit road tonight – some of them helped, some not as much. Overall, we wanted to be able to finish a few spots higher. Thanks to our partners at Mystik Lubricants for coming on board with us this season. We’ll debrief this week and come back ready for Las Vegas.”

Denny Hamlin – finished 21st: “I think (Martin Truex Jr.) must have been on the splitter or something when he came out after he took a green flag pit stop. He just kind of went straight off of the corner. I was running the top and when he went straight, he saw he was going to hit the wall, so he slammed on the brakes and I was going, so I jammed up under him. That was unfortunate. That was bad luck for us. I think he was a couple laps down, but they were fighting their car all day. I’m sure they got in the next round, but we just had some bad luck. We drove up to fifth, and I felt pretty good. We caught the lead within three seconds – drove to them within three seconds, so I was pretty happy about where we were going to be, and then we crashed.”

Bubba Wallace – finished 22nd: “We had a pretty fast No. 43 Cash App Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE tonight – probably the best car we’ve ever brought to Bristol (Motor Speedway), so that was a positive. We got a stage point in Stage 1. I thought the guys were doing a really good job throughout the night. Our Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE was on the tight-side a little bit. We didn’t really seem to help it, but we didn’t really hurt it all either – kind of just stayed the same balance from the start of the race to the finish. A little frustrating, but super frustrated that we just can’t seem to get some luck on the strategy side. Unfortunate that we got trapped three-laps down, or whatever it was, and you’re just stuck, especially that late in the race. We’ll go onto the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and see if we can turn it around.”

Cole Custer – finished 23rd: “We just struggled here. I don’t know why. I’ve always liked Bristol, it just hasn’t come together this year here. We’ve just really struggled. I just can’t thank everybody enough at SHR, everybody at HaasTooling.com, Autodesk.  I just wish we had a better night. We were just a little bit off. I think we can hang our heads high on what we’ve done this year, but we still have a lot of races to win the rest of this year, so we just have to keep building.”

Daniel Suarez – finished 26th: “We deserved better than that. I don’t know what happened at the end there, but it should not have happened. We had a few things to work on at the start of the race. Then, in the middle part of the race, we were super tight for a long time until the Toyota Genuine Parts & Service car really started coming to me on old tires. We didn’t make any changes on the last stop and it was feeling pretty good until what happened there at the end. That’s Bristol, I guess. Let’s go to Las Vegas.”

Brad Keselowski – finished 34th: “It was a frustrating night, there is no way around that. I am thankful we were able to lead some laps but that certainly was not what we were hoping for. We had a power steering pump issue. I am not sure exactly what it was. I will let the team guys get to that and chase it down. Obviously it killed out chances. I don’t know what would have happened if we didn’t have that problem but we did so we will move on to the next week and I am thankful we had the win at Richmond last week to fall back on.”

William Byron – finished 38th: “I think the No. 51 car (Joey Gase) checked up in the middle of the straightaway. As fast as we were running the top, I was right behind the No. 95 (Christopher Bell) and I had literally nowhere to go. You can’t stop in the middle of the straightaway when everybody is so committed to the top like that. Just ridiculous that that’s what takes us out. I thought honestly we had a shot to run top-five or seven. The car was really, really good. We just needed a couple good pitstops. We were running probably ninth or tenth there. Just super disappointing – I’ve got to go back and watch that because that was kind of ridiculous.”