MOVING FORWARD in the playoffs: Analyzing the field after Kansas
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Following the second race of the NASCAR Cup Playoff Round of 16 at Kansas Speedway, here’s a preview of the updated playoff image. There is one race left in the round of 16 before the field is reduced to 12, with four drivers eliminated from the playoffs after the September 17 race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Bouba Wallace. For the second week in a row, a driver outside the playoffs took the checkered flag. This time it was Wallace who won for the second time in his career and the second time for 23XI Racing. Wallace became the 18th different winner of the 2022 season while driving the No. 45 Toyota at Victory Lane in Kansas. Kurt Busch led the No. 45 to a win earlier this season at Kansas. With Busch injured, Wallace moved from #23 to #45 in an effort to give this car a better chance of competing for the owners’ championship.
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Christopher Bell. Bell won Stage 1 and finished second in Stage 2 en route to third place and a big points day at Kansas. Bell clinched a berth in the Round of 16 and leads the playoff standings after a third-place finish at Kansas and a fifth-place finish at Darlington.
Denny Hamlin. Hamlin opened the playoffs with back-to-back second-place finishes, but this one must feel a bit better than the first. That’s because as co-owner of 23XI Racing, Hamlin at least got to see his team get the win even if he didn’t.
Who is not
Kevin Harvick. Harvick was racing in tight quarters with Ross Chastain and Bubba Wallace during Stage 1 at Kansas when his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford broke loose and hit the wall. Harvick took the car to pit road but was unable to continue as the right front wheel was beyond repair. Harvick’s last spot in Kansas essentially puts him in a must-win situation next weekend in Bristol.
Tyler Reddick. Reddick hit the outside retaining wall with his #8 Richard Childress Chevrolet during Stage 1 at Kansas and was unable to continue after that. The poleman led 38 laps but could only complete 67 of the 267 laps scheduled for 35th place. Midwestern misfortune will put Reddick in the hot seat heading to Bristol.
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The NASCAR Cup Series heads to Bristol Motor Speedway for the Bass Pro Night Race on September 17 (7:30 p.m. ET, USA Network, NBC Sports App, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). It will be the second race on the 0.533 mile track this season, but the first on the concrete surface in Bristol after there was a dirt race in the spring.
Who he favors
Kyle Busch. Busch has eight victories at Bristol, the most of any active driver. Its last victory there was in the spring of 2019. This will be the Next Gen car’s first race on concrete, so it will be difficult to predict whether past performance will be a good indicator of things to come.
Who it hurts
Alex Bowman. Bowman finished fifth in this race last year, but his overall track work is not favorable. The Hendrick Motorsports driver has finished 15th or worse in eight of his 11 career Cup Series starts at Bristol.