After the second race of the Round of 16 in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs at Kansas Speedway, here’s a look at the updated playoff picture. There is one race remaining in the Round of 16 before the field is whittled to 12, with four drivers eliminated from the postseason following the Sept. 17 race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Bubba Wallace. For the second straight week, a driver outside of 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 as he drove the No. 45 Toyota to Victory Lane at Kansas. Kurt Busch drove the No. 45 to a win earlier this season at Kansas. With Busch out injured, Wallace switched from the No. 23 to the No. 45 in an effort to give that car a better chance to compete for the owners’ championship.
Christopher Bell. Bell won Stage 1 and finished second in Stage 2 en route to a third-place finish and a big points day at Kansas. Bell clinched a spot in the Round of 12 and leads the playoff standings after a third-place run at Kansas and a fifth-place finish at Darlington.
Denny Hamlin. Hamlin has opened the playoffs with consecutive runner-up finishes, but this one has to feel a little bit better than first. That’s because as the co-owner of 23XI Racing, Hamlin at least got to see his team get the win even if he didn’t.
Kevin Harvick. Harvick was running in tight quarters with Ross Chastain and Bubba Wallace in Stage 1 at Kansas when his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford got loose and hit the wall. Harvick brought the car to pit road but was unable to continue because the right-front wheel was unrepairable. Harvick’s last-place finish at Kansas basically puts him in a must-win situation next weekend at Bristol.
Tyler Reddick. Reddick smacked the outside retaining wall with his No. 8 Richard Childress Chevrolet in Stage 1 at Kansas and could not continue after that. The pole winner led 38 laps but could complete only 67 of the scheduled 267 laps for a 35th-place finish. The Midwestern misfortune will put Reddick on the hot seat heading into Bristol.
The NASCAR Cup Series travels to Bristol Motor Speedway for the Bass Pro Night Race on Sept. 17 (7:30 p.m. ET, USA Network, NBC Sports App, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). This will be the second race at the 0.533-mile track this season but the first on Bristol’s concrete surface after there was a dirt race there in the spring.
Who it favors
Kyle Busch. Busch has eight wins at Bristol, the most of any active driver. His last victory there came in the spring of 2019. This will be the first race for the Next Gen car on the 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 body of work at the track isn’t favorable. The Hendrick Motorsports driver has finished 15th or worse in eight of his 11 career Cup Series starts at Bristol.