This upcoming weekend at Bristol is set to be great in every way possible, and all the main three divisions of NASCAR have big races coming up. It’s a Cup Series cut-off race, it’s the Xfinity Series regular season finale, and it’s the Playoff opener for the Truck Series.
First up is the Truck Series, where ten drivers have qualified for the playoffs, it’s pretty straight forward for everyone involved. Three rounds where the top 8 advance, and with the gap from Sheldon Creed in 1st down to Tyler Ankrum on 10th being only 24 points, these playoffs are wide open.
For the Xfinity Series season finale, the playoff field is pretty much set. The gap from Brandon Brown in 12th to Jeremy Clements in 13th is 49 points, so it’s going to take a minor miracle for Clements to make the playoffs. However, the win and you’re in-formula could easily change this and put Brown outside the playoff. I honestly don’t see this happening, but it’s racing, so anything can happen.
On Saturday night the first cut-off race of the Cup Series playoffs will take place. There are five drivers within 12 points around the cut-off line, and basically 13 drivers who can still fall out. Joey Logano (+51), Martin Truex Jr. (+38) and Austin Dillon (+36) are all somewhat safe to advance, if they just have decent races and stay in it to the end. Chase Elliott (+28 and Alex Bowman (+27) are in similar situations but are still going to have to score some stage points just to stay in full control of their own destinies. The first driver that has to be somewhat worried is Kyle Busch. Despite being 18 points clear of the cut line, he is still going to need a solid race to make sure he advances through to the Round of 12. I don’t think any of these drivers will have to be too worried about making it, but there is always the element of surprise in racing, and when it comes to NASCAR, always expect the unexpected.
Aric Almirola (+7), Kurt Busch (+7), Clint Bowyer (+3), William Byron (-3) and Cole Custer (-8) are all basically just racing each other, and just like the trio at Talladega, this will be the main group to keep an eye on if you want to see some exciting racing. With them all being well capable of finishing in the top 10, or maybe even scoring a win, these guys will race harder than ever for every stage point they can get, as one single point could be the difference between making the Round of 12, and being knocked out of the playoffs. Looking at the races at Bristol from earlier this year, all these drivers the speed to fight for the top 10 throughout, though for Almirola and Custer it ended in a pair of crashes, ultimately they are all very similar speed which is set to make this an incredible race. As we saw last time as well with the leaders, tempers will flare come the end of this race and I would not be too surprised if we see someone get turned for a spot in the Round of 12.
For Matt DiBenedetto and Ryan Blaney, Bristol is pretty much straight forward. Unless there’s a major crash taking out several of the previously mentioned contenders, both these drivers basically have to win to advance. They are only 25 and 27 points out respectively, but with the amount of points at least three of those five drivers are most likely going to score, these two will either have to be up front all day long, scoring the maximum points in all stages, or simply just win the race.
I would love to be able to predict what is going to happen at Bristol, but it is literally the me most unpredictable race of the playoffs in my opinion, simply because it’s a short track, with so much on the line for so many. However, Chase Elliott is going to follow up on his All-Star success and score the win, Blaney will have a great day score just enough points to advance, while Almirola will join Byron, Custer and DiBenedetto below the cut line and outside the Round of 12.