Four championship hopefuls were eliminated from title contention following the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs elimination race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday night, resetting the standings board and setting the Round of 12.
After finishing second at Kansas Speedway a week prior, Denny Hamlin continued the upward trajectory with a convincing win at Bristol Motor Speedway in the Bass Pro Shops Night Race. Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell and Chris Buescher were a trio of additional drivers to make up the top five.
RELATED: Unofficial race results | Full playoff grid
Joey Logano, Team Penske
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., JTG Daugherty Racing
Michael McDowell, Front Row Motorsports
ADVANCING TO THE ROUND OF 12
William Byron, Hendrick Motorsports, 3,036 points
Martin Truex Jr., Joe Gibbs Racing, 3,036 points
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, 3,032 points
Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, 3,023 points
Chris Buescher, RFK Racing, 3,021 points
Kyle Busch, Richard Childress Racing, 3,019 points
Christopher Bell, Joe Gibbs Racing, 3,016 points
Tyler Reddick, 23XI Racing, 3,014 points
Brad Keselowski, RFK Racing, 3,011 points
Ross Chastain, Trackhouse Racing, 3,011 points
Ryan Blaney, Team Penske, 3,008 points
Bubba Wallace, 23XI Racing, 3,000 points
Kyle Larson. Starting at the rear of the field to begin the Bristol finale didn’t dissuade the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet from working up toward the front of the field and contesting the lead with Christopher Bell and Denny Hamlin. With Saturday’s finish, Larson finished the Round of 16 with results of first, fourth and second. Momentum-wise, that’s not too shabby.
Christopher Bell. Starting from the pole position for three consecutive races is definitely a jolt for the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, and for Bell, this jolt helped net two top-10 finishes in the Round of 16, with both coming in back-to-back contests. Bell very well could be finding the speedy touch at the right time.
Ryan Blaney. The No. 12 Team Penske Ford finished several laps down and snapped a two-race stretch of finishing inside the top 15. Although Blaney has advanced to the Round of 12, there will be work to do.
Ross Chastain. Similar to Blaney, the playoff driver in Chastain will likely wish to flush his Bristol performance, with the No. 1 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet finishing outside the top 20. The Round of 12 will be a fresh slate to regain early momentum found during the Round of 16.
The Round of 12 opens at Texas Motor Speedway for the AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 400 on Sept. 24 (3:30 p.m. ET, USA Network, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, NBC Sports App).
WHO IT FAVORS
Tyler Reddick. In four career Cup races at Texas, Reddick’s worst finish was 15th (2020). His three other finishes? Second, ninth and first, with the Victory Lane appearance coming last year. Reddick’s 6.8 average finish ranks first among all active drivers with a minimum of two Cup races at the track. Couple the fact that Reddick has shown blistering speed up to this point of the postseason, and this seems like an easy layup for the No. 45.
WHO IT HURTS
Chris Buescher. RFK has taken a monumental leap forward in 2023, especially for Buescher, who has put together a career year behind the wheel of the No. 17 Ford. Texas, however, has proven to be a tough cookie in the past, with the Prosper, Texas native failing to crack the top 10 in any of his 13 career Cup races at the track. To make matters worse, Buescher has failed to lead a single lap, and his only finish inside the top 15 came in April of 2018. This year’s Buescher is admittedly a different version, but even still, Texas could prove to be a playoff roadblock for the title contender.