NASCAR at Bristol 2022: Odds, Preview and Top Storylines
The start of the NASCAR Cup Series postseason has delivered a few unexpected twists.
None of the 16 drivers who qualified for the playoffs won the round-of-16 races at Darlington and Kansas. Erik Jones and Bubba Wallace each won their first events of the season at those tracks.
Christopher Bell is the only driver in the playoffs who booked a spot in the round of 12 based on points. He leads the playoff point standings going into Saturday night's race at Bristol.
William Byron and Denny Hamlin are directly behind Bell in the playoff standings, and they appear to be the safest drivers to make it into the round of 12. Joey Logano in fourth is also 40 points clear of the bubble.
Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, Chase Briscoe and Kevin Harvick enter Bristol on the outside looking in at the 12 spots allotted for the next round.
Busch is the most fascinating case of all drivers this weekend. He comes into Bristol after finally nailing down a team to race for in 2023. Busch is set to leave Joe Gibbs Racing and compete for Richard Childress Racing.
The announcement may have come at a perfect time for Busch since Bristol is one of his best tracks. He won the dirt race on the Tennessee short track in April and has eight career Cup Series wins on the paved surface at Bristol.
Bass Pro Shops Night Race Odds
Denny Hamlin (+700; bet $100 to win $700)
Kyle Busch (+700)
Chase Elliott (+750)
Kyle Larson (+750)
Christopher Bell (+800)
Kevin Harvick (+900)
Tyler Reddick (+1200)
Joey Logano (+1500)
William Byron (+1500)
Ross Chastain (+1500)
Ryan Blaney (+1500)
Martin Truex Jr. (+1500)
Bubba Wallace (+2500)
Alex Bowman (+3000)
Daniel Suarez (+4000)
Chase Briscoe (+4000)
Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook
All Eyes on Kyle Busch
Kyle Busch settled his plans for the 2023 season just in time for a trip to one of his favorite race tracks.
The 37-year-old announced a deal with RCR after months of speculation regarding what his move would be for the 2023 season and beyond. The lifting of the stress about his future plans could allow Busch to drive with comfort on Saturday night.
Busch needs a strong run to put himself into the round of 12. He sits two points behind Austin Cindric for 12th place. Busch's future teammate, Tyler Reddick, is also two points in front of the No. 18 driver.
The current Joe Gibbs Racing driver has had a ton of success at Bristol in different stages of his career. He won five races at Bristol between 2007-11 and won one race there in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
It would be fitting if Busch capped his week with a victory under the lights to secure a spot in the next round of the postseason.
Even if he does not win, Busch should put together a strong enough run to vault him over the playoff bubble.
Kevin Harvick Needs to Win and Advance
Kevin Harvick has had the worst start to the postseason of any driver.
Harvick landed in 33rd and 36th at Darlington and Kansas with a pair of DNFs. Those results put him 35 points behind going into Bristol.
The 46-year-old would need a high finish and for most of the playoff drivers to crash out of the race to even have a hope of advancing on points, so that means the No. 4 team will be going all-in for the win.
The No. 4 team was in a similar situation at the end of the regular season before Harvick pulled out back-to-back wins at Michigan and Richmond.
The desperation for a victory could bring out a more aggressive drive from Harvick or an alternate pit strategy in certain stages of the race to get ahead.
Harvick is the only one of the 16 playoff drivers who is essentially in a must-win situation to advance. The three other drivers on the wrong side of the bubble are within 10 points of Reddick and Cindric.
How Will Race for Playoff Spots Shake Out?
The first two races of the NASCAR postseason had unexpected results to say the least.
Ryan Blaney, the fifth-place driver, has a 34-point edge on the bubble. Alex Bowman is 32 points in front, followed by Chase Elliott (26), Kyle Larson (25) and Ross Chastain (24).
All of those drivers should be safe as long as an early wreck does not derail their nights.
Daniel Suarez, the 10th-place driver, will likely be fighting for the final three spots all night along with Reddick, Cindric, Busch, Austin Dillon, Chase Briscoe and Harvick.
Suarez is four points ahead of the bubble, while Reddick and Cindric are each on the bubble. Busch, Dillon and Briscoe are all within 10 points of the cut line. Harvick is 35 points back.
One change in position could cost those drivers a spot in the postseason. We should expect hard driving from the start as they try to make it over the cut line and into the round of 12.
A win for any of those drivers would be huge, and it could shift the dynamic of the next round because one team would come into it with more confidence than others.
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