Three NASCAR Cup Playoff races have come and gone and the first cuts have been made to the 16 driver playoff field.
Following Saturday night’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway, the drivers advancing to the Round of 12 are Chase Elliott, Joey Logano, Ross Chastain, Kyle Larson, William Byron, Denny Hamlin, Christopher Bell, Ryan Blaney, Chase Briscoe, Alex Bowman, Daniel Suarez and Austin Cindric.
The four drivers who were eliminated from the playoff field: Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Tyler Reddick and Austin Dillon.
Busch’s elimination came four days after it was announced he would be going from Joe Gibbs Racing to Richard Childress Racing in 2023.
Busch was kicked out of the playoff after the first round for the first time in his NASCAR Cup career.
The driver of the No. 18 Toyota had his chances essentially dashed when his engine expired in the second stage.
He ended the round of 16 with finishes of 30th, 26th and 34th.
“It just goes with our year. I don’t even know what to say. I’m flabbergasted,” Busch said. “I just feel so bad for my guys. They don’t deserve to be in this spot. They work too hard. We are too good of a group to be this low – down on the bottom, fighting for our lives just to make it through. Two engine failures in three weeks, that will do it to you. I really feel bad for all of Rowdy Nation, everybody at M&M’s, Interstate Batteries, Rowdy Energy, all of the partners that get us going every week. This is not our normal.”
Harvick entered the race in essentially a must-win scenario as the last driver in the playoff field, more than 30 points behind the cutoff.
The Stewart-Haas Racing driver ran in the top 10 most of the night and was in the top three in the final stage. But his hopes were stopped in the tracks on the race’s last caution. During his pit stop, Harvick had to back up into his stall in order to have a wheel put back on his No. 4 Ford.
After entering the pits in the top three, he returned to the track in 10th where he would finish.
“It was pretty tough,” Harvick said. “We pitted in front of (race winner Chris Buescher) so just kind of the way the year has gone. Just went from having a chance to lead the parade to being a part of the parade. Just difficult to pass. … Can’t race.”
Tyler Reddick and Austin Dillon
Of the Richard Childress Racing duo, only Tyler Reddick made it to the end of the 500 lap Bristol Night Race. But both he and Austin Dillon were caught up in the same wreck that more or less doomed them to playoff elimination.
Reddick’s No. 2 Chevrolet and Dillon’s No. 3 Chevy were involved in the multi-car wreck on a Lap 276 restart that was triggered when Daniel Suarez spun and began collecting competitors.
Dillon’s car was too damaged to continue despite team efforts on pit road. He finished 31st.
Meanwhile, Reddick’s team was able to make enough repairs to his car to get it back onto the track.
Reddick would finish in 25th, 31 laps down.
“Frustrating for sure,” Reddick said. “I don’t know, we thought qualifying was better for us in our Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen Chevy, but we didn’t quite have the pace or the balance really to make our car better, and unfortunately the balance issues we were fighting, we were pretty much limited.
“We couldn’t really adjust on it without hurting downforce off the car overall, so we were kind of boxed in. Then we just kind of got collected in that accident back there. I checked up in time, but yeah, I got absolutely ran over from there. Caught the right front and broke the upper control arm for the second week in a row.”
The NASCAR Cup playoffs continue next weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.