Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway
(⏰ 7:30 p.m. ET | 📺 NBCSN, TSN | 📻 PRN, SiriusXM)
Everything you need to know for Saturday’s Round of 16 elimination race and 29th points-paying NASCAR Cup Series event of the 2021 season.
Where: Bristol Motor Speedway, a 0.533-mile short oval located in Bristol, Tennessee
Green flag: 7:47 p.m. ET
Grand Marshal: Sherry Pollex
TV/Radio: NBCSN/NBC Sports App, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Forecast: A chance of showers and thunderstorms before 3 a.m., then a slight chance of showers. Partly cloudy, with a low around 63, according to NOAA.gov
Race Distance: 500 laps, 266.5 miles
Stages: 125 | 250 | 500
Pit-road speed: 30 mph
Caution car speed: 35 mph
Bristol 101: Get the full lowdown
Starting lineup: See the full lineup
Pit-stall assignments: See who is pitting where | Expert breaks down pit selections
Five to watch
Here are five big story lines we’ll be following at Bristol Motor Speedway.
1. The elimination line. It is something that we’ve kept an eye on since the beginning of the NASCAR Playoffs and now we finally have a chance to see who advances through the Round of 16. Six-time Bristol winner Kurt Busch holds the final transfer spot, even after bowing out of Richmond Raceway with a heavy crash in Stage 1 just one week ago. A pair of Hendrick Motorsports drivers, Alex Bowman and William Byron, find themselves unexpectedly below the initial line to advance after a historically dominant season from the organization. Title underdogs, Tyler Reddick (5 points below the elimination line) and Michael McDowell (38 points below the elimination line), are also down but not out. A solid day from Reddick could potentially advance the first-year playoff driver to the Round of 12. McDowell? He likely needs a win. We have yet to see a playoff race where all 16 eligible drivers have finished the race, and as we know, anything can happen at “The Last Great Colosseum.” See the current playoff standings.
2. Regular season? Hendrick Motorsports’ dominance. Playoffs, so far? Joe Gibbs Racing has been up to the challenge. It isn’t outrageous to assume the veteran stable at JGR has caught up. Short-track success throughout JGR’s history has placed them in a perfect position in the opening round. Denny Hamlin has led 343 laps in the first two playoff races — the most ever. After failing to win in his first 80 short-track starts, Martin Truex Jr. has won six of the last 12 at this track type. If you stay with Kyle Larson as your championship pick, that’s fine. But Hamlin and Truex Jr. have certainly had a lot to say already. And Christopher Bell (eighth) and Kyle Busch (10th) are both currently in position to make the Round of 12. Either way it shakes on Saturday, this debate looks to be on pace to continue all the way to Phoenix Raceway. See what the experts have to say.
3. With his back against the wall, no driver in recent history has been more clutch than defending Cup Series champion Chase Elliott. Since the 2020 Round of 12, Elliott has won at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL and Martinsville Speedway to advance into the next round and at Phoenix Raceway to claim his first Cup title. Those were the last three elimination races. After a shaky 31st-place finish and DNF at Darlington Raceway to open the playoffs, the No. 9 wheelman bounced back for an impressive fourth-place result at Richmond. Elliott heads to Bristol with a comfortable cushion to the elimination line at plus 19, but with very little room for error. He’s led laps in seven of the last nine races at Bristol and in 10 career starts there, he has an even split — five finishes of seventh or better and five finishes of 11th or worse. The question is, which sort of performance will we see on Saturday night?
4. Look out for Joey Logano. The Team Penske driver has had an electric start to the playoffs and is climbing the standings after finishing eighth at Darlington and fifth at Richmond. Larson, Hamlin, and Truex Jr. are the only drivers ahead of him on the current leaderboard heading to Bristol. That’s some pretty good company. After a brief four-race skid to end the regular season — consecutive races of 22nd or worse — Logano and company have turned it up in their quest for a second Cup Series trophy. We sometimes forget that he’s made the Championship 4 four out of the seven years since the current playoff format’s inception in 2014, capped off by a championship in 2018. With other names taking up the majority of the spotlight, don’t sleep on Logano to have a say in the 2021 title quest. His only Bristol wins have come during the summer race and he has three straight finishes of 11th or worse at the Tennessee track on the concrete surface. Which will prevail this weekend: His hot playoff start or Bristol history?
5. So far this season, driver and team movement has rocked the NASCAR headlines — leaving some drivers gearing up for next season and others in search of a new seat. For the latter, winning can change everything. That’s certainly the case for Matt DiBenedetto. DiBenedetto has led laps in each of the last three races at Bristol and just fell short in this race of his first career win after a runner-up result in 2019. Saturday night presents another solid chance for the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing driver to pick up the elusive win and 100th all-time for the historic organization. Still rocking with the favorites over the underdogs? Well, each of the last five races at Bristol was won by a different driver. Can a non-playoff driver get their first win this weekend under the lights at the iconic short track? Follow the 2021-22 Silly Season here.
Our biggest pieces of the week — get covered for race day from all angles.
• Power Rankings: Joey Logano likely to have a say in title picture | Latest rankings
• Paint Scheme Preview: Daniel Suarez brings out special scheme for Hispanic Heritage Month | Suarez’s scheme and more
• Clinching scenarios: Win and you’re in, but how else can you advance? | See what it takes
• Playoff Pulse: Analyzing the field after Richmond Raceway | Full breakdown
• Debate: Who are the first four drivers out of the Cup Series Playoffs? | Watch the debate
• Bubble Watch: Is William Byron in too deep of a hole to advance? | See the bubble breakdown
• Fantasy Fastlane: Backing the Busch brothers at Bristol | Top plays, sleepers
• Elimination aces: Which driver has the most wins in NASCAR Playoffs elimination races? | Find out
Get in on the action
Think you know NASCAR? Put your mettle to the test with gaming, fantasy.
• What are the odds?: Betting odds for Bristol | See them here
• NASCAR betting: Pro betters share NASCAR gambling stories from different era in Las Vegas | Read more
• Talking playoffs: How Fantasy Live game works for the postseason | Read more
• On the grid: How the Cup Series Playoffs Grid Challenge works | Read more
• No risk, big reward: Take a shot at winning cash prizes with the free-to-play Jackpot Races app | Hit the jackpot
• Play it LIVE: Full guide to 2021 NASCAR Fantasy Live game | Get the FAQ
Back to Bristol
NASCAR heads to another short track this weekend with a return to ‘The Last Great Colosseum.’ Learn more about the history and what happened last time out.
• All-time wins: Bristol Motor Speedway night race | See the list
• Top 10 lap leaders at Bristol | Who has led the most?
• Carl Edwards collects the checkered flag | Watch the 2008 Bristol replay
• Kevin Harvick holds off Kyle Busch for 2020 Bristol night race win | Full race recap
• Memorable moments at Bristol: Earnhardt rattles the cage | Relive the moments
Hard-hitting, race-relevant statistics, brought to you by the experts at Racing Insights.
• Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. both have an average finish of 2.3 on short tracks this season.
• Drivers ninth to 14th are separated by just 18 points heading into the Round of 16 elimination race.
• Chase Elliott has won the last three Cup Series Playoffs elimination races.
• Kyle Busch leads all active drivers with eight wins at Bristol, including top fives in six of the last seven here.
• Matt DiBenedetto has led laps in each of the last three races at Bristol, finishing runner-up in 2019 with 93 laps led.
Catch the pack
Read up on all the headlines from the week leading up to Saturday’s race.
• 2022 schedule: Slate of tracks revealed for next season | See them all
• First class to St. Louis: World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway makes Cup Series debut in 2022 | Read more
• On track at L.A. Coliseum: Historic venue getting short-track makeover | More details
• Coliseum demo: A look at the iRacing demo of the L.A. Coliseum, home of the 2022 Clash | Watch
• No. 1 pit crew returns: Kurt Busch’s usual pit crew will be with him at Bristol | Read more
• Changes at 23XI: Mike Wheeler takes on new role with Bootie Barker taking over as crew chief | Read more
• Penalty for two: Two Cup teams penalized, No. 77 crew chief suspended | More details
• Like father, like son: Brexton Busch wins at Mountain Creek Speedway | Read more
• Where are they now?: Catching up with Ricky Craven | Find out what he’s up to
• Moving up: Sheldon Creed to join Richard Childress Racing Xfinity program next season | More details
• iRacing at Bristol: Keegan Leahy gets another Coca-Cola iRacing Series win | See final lap
Notable quotes from the stars of the sport heading into Saturday’s race.
• “It’s definitely a relief to have that win and not have to worry about Bristol this week. I enjoy racing there and we’ve had some great cars, but for whatever reason, we have had no luck whatsoever on the Cup side. Whether it’s flat tires, loose wheels, speeding penalties, getting caught up in crashes, you name it and it’s happened to us at Bristol. So, from that standpoint, it hasn’t been our best track, but we’re capable of running well there if we can just have a smooth night. It would mean a lot to have a good run because it’s a big night for Johnny Morris and everyone at Bass Pro sponsoring the race, so we’re going to give it our best shot and see if we can get a few more Playoff points before the next round.” — Martin Truex Jr., driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
• “Overall, this season has been great and, like you said, it’s been a career year for me and a career year for Front Row. We have more speed and more potential in our race cars and more top 10s and more top fives than we’ve ever had, so on the overall scale it’s been a great year. The playoffs have been really disappointing and what’s so disappointing about it, for me and for all of our guys, is that it’s been mistakes. It hasn’t been a lack of speed and my guys have done such a great job of getting prepared for the playoffs and we actually had good speed at Darlington and Richmond and we don’t have anything to show for it. We obviously crashed at Darlington and then had three pit road speeding penalties at Richmond that took us out of it, but feel like we had a 10th to 15th-place car at both of those racetracks, which is really good for us. So, I’m very disappointed in myself and I’m very disappointed on how these first two rounds of the playoffs have gone.” — Michael McDowell, driver of the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford
• “Our short-track program has definitely improved and we’re in such a different place than we were earlier this year, but I understand Bristol a lot better than I do Richmond. The biggest thing now is keeping up with the track and making sure the car is where I need it to be. Bristol is a track that is going to change a lot with the traction compound on the bottom. Everyone will be moving up to the top, and then the top will get rubbered in and you’ll move down to the bottom when that cools off. There’s always a lot going on at Bristol from a driver perspective that you have to keep an eye on and the track changes is one of those things.” — Chase Briscoe, driver of the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford