A look at the winners and losers from Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway:
Non-playoff drivers — Chris Buescher made it a clean sweep of drivers not in the playoffs winning each of the three first-round races. Erik Jones won at Darlington, Bubba Wallace won at Kansas, and Buescher won at Bristol. It is Buescher’s second career Cup victory. He led a race-high 169 of 500 laps.
RFK Racing — Chris Buescher and Brad Keselowski combined to lead 278 laps. Keselowski, who won a stage, finished 13th after a tire went down while leading. Buescher gave the team its first points win since Keselowski became a part owner at the start of the season.
Christopher Bell — Finished fourth and won a stage to collect a playoff point for the second round. Had an average finish of 4.0 in the first round.
William Byron — After scoring one top-10 finish in the last 18 races of the regular season, Byron scored top 10s in each of the three races in the first round. He was eighth at Darlington, sixth at Kansas and third at Bristol.
Austin Cindric — Was four laps down less than 100 laps into the race but kept going. He was helped by trouble to others to secure the final transfer spot to the second round despite finishing 20th, seven laps behind the leaders.
Next Gen car on a short track — Some durability issues created issues for teams, and drivers said the cars are going too fast to race well at Bristol. Work remains on this car.
Kevin Harvick — A fire ended his race at Darlington. A crash, when two cars in front took the air off his note, ended his race at Kansas. In position to challenge for the lead late at Bristol, his left front wheel came off and forced him to back into his pits to have it put back on. That cost him a chance at a win and ended his title hopes. Fire, crash and wheel coming off — that aptly describes some of the major issues this year with the new car.
Richard Childress Racing — All four playoff drivers with connections to this team, whether past, present or future, all failed to advance. RCR drivers Tyler Reddick and Austin Dillon failed to advance, as did Kevin Harvick, who raced for RCR in Cup from 2001-13, and Kyle Busch, who will join the team in 2023.
Kyle Busch — Two engine failures in the first round ended his last chance to win a third Cup championship with Joe Gibbs Racing.