A look at the winners and losers from Saturday night’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Bristol Motor Speedway…
Kyle Larson – Took advantage of Chase Elliott and Kevin Harvick’s previous on-track clash by passing Harvick – who had the lapped Elliott directly ahead of him – for the win with four laps to go. Enters the Round of 12 as top seed with a 46-point cushion above the cutline and 59 playoff points in his pocket.
Kevin Harvick – A bittersweet night for sure, but Harvick still completed an impressive first-round (fifth at Darlington, eighth at Richmond, second at Bristol) after a winless regular season. He’ll have to keep grinding, however, as he starts from the bottom again in the Round of 12 with a 12-point deficit to the cutline.
William Byron – Finished third to claim the final spot in the Round of 12 by two points. With the help of eight stage points, Byron erased the 18-point deficit to the cutline he had entering Saturday.
Alex Bowman – Finished fifth to advance into the Round of 12 after entering Saturday tied on the cutline. Bowman didn’t score any stage point but picked up the pace during the final stage to get the job done. It’s his first top-five run since finishing fourth at Atlanta in July.
Kurt Busch – Surprise miss on car setup was too much to overcome for the six-time Bristol winner, who finished a middling 19th and was eliminated from the playoffs. With Chip Ganassi Racing set to leave NASCAR at season’s end, he’ll now look to send them out properly over the last seven races before making his own jump to 23XI Racing.
Tyler Reddick – 12th-place finish wasn’t enough to keep his first Cup playoff run going. Mistakes in the first round added up. At Darlington, a missed setup led to poor pace. Then, at Richmond, he fell a lap down and couldn’t recover. Finally, at Bristol, he had to pit a second time in the Stage 2 break for a loose right rear lug nut, costing him valuable track position when he didn’t need to lose it.
Aric Almirola – Tried to rally after his Stewart-Haas Racing team successfully changed his car’s oil line without losing a lap. But late-race calls to stay on track to maintain position didn’t work. On older tires, Almirola couldn’t get the spots he needed to advance in the playoffs. An 18th-place finish saw him out of title contention.
Michael McDowell – Daytona 500 winner was always going to need a mistake-free first round and some help to advance in the playoffs. He got neither. A lack of power steering plagued McDowell on Saturday, relegating him to a 24th-place finish and an early playoff exit.