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Playoff Pulse: Round of 12 set after Bristol

Four drivers were eliminated from the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs after Saturday’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway, as the postseason field was trimmed from 16 drivers to 12.


Kyle Larson. Larson got his sixth victory of the season with a dramatic late pass of Kevin Harvick to cap the opening round of the playoffs. Larson’s win got Hendrick Motorsports back into Victory Lane and spoiled Joe Gibbs Racing’s chance to sweep the opening round.

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Tyler Reddick, Richard Childress Racing
Aric Almirola, Stewart-Haas Racing
Kurt Busch, Chip Ganassi Racing
Michael McDowell, Front Row Motorsports

(ordered as they are seeded)

Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, 3059 points
Martin Truex Jr., Joe Gibbs Racing, 3029 points
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, 3024 points*
Ryan Blaney, Team Penske, 3024 points
Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing, 3022 points
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, 3021 points
Alex Bowman, Hendrick Motorsports, 3015 points
William Byron, Hendrick Motorsports, 3014 points
Joey Logano, Team Penske, 3013 points
Brad Keselowski, Team Penske, 3008 points
Christopher Bell, Joe Gibbs Racing, 3005 points
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, 3002 points

* = Hamlin owns tiebreaker over Blaney based on best finish in Round of 16.


William Byron. Byron came to Bristol 18 points down and somewhat in need of a miracle to advance. Well, he got it, with a third-place finish that was enough for him to advance to the Round of 12 by two points.

Alex Bowman. Bowman wasn’t at one of his better tracks, but he had one of his better recent performances when he needed it most. He was 13th in the playoff standings coming to Bristol, but he left 10 points to the good thanks to a fifth-place finish.


Kurt Busch. He entered the race in the last transfer spot for the Round of 12, but he got off to a poor start at Bristol and never recovered. Busch battled an ill handling car to a 19th-place finish, and he ended six points below the elimination line.

Aric Almirola. Almirola began the night three points above the elimination line, but he was black-flagged in Stage 2 because his car was smoking and dropping fluid. He lost ground due to the ensuing pit stop for repairs, but he battled back and was in good position until he got overtaken in points late.


The Round of 12 opens at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with the South Point 400 at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday, Sept. 26 (NBCSN, NBC Sports App, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Who it favors

Joey Logano. Logano has scored the most points in the past five races at Las Vegas, a stretch that includes two victories. He also leads active drivers with an average finish of 8.4 at the 1.5-mile track.

Who it hurts?

Chase Elliott. Elliott’s last three finishes at Las Vegas have left a lot to be desired: 26th, 22nd and 13th. Before that, his best finish was third in 2017.