Drivers to watch in NASCAR Cup Series race at Bristol

·3 min read

Saturday night’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway will mark the end of the line — at least in championship terms — for four drivers.

As the third race in the first round of the playoffs, Saturday’s 500-lap marathon is the cutoff for the Round of 16. The four drivers below the cutoff line at the end of the race will be eliminated from the playoffs.

Entering the race, Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, Chase Briscoe and Kevin Harvick are below the magic line.

Saturday night’s race (7:30 p.m. ET) will be televised by the USA Network.

A look at drivers to watch at Bristol:

FRONTRUNNERS

Christopher Bell

  • Points position: 1st

  • Last three races: 3rd at Kansas, 5th at Darlington, 36th at Daytona

  • Past at Bristol: One top 10 and two finishes of 28th or worse

Bell leads the playoff points and has locked in a place in the Round of 12. He can drive with a certain amount of comfort Saturday, but he also would like to score his first win at BMS. His best career finish there is a ninth, in 2020.

Denny Hamlin

  • Points position: 3rd

  • Last three races: 2nd at Kansas, 2nd at Darlington, 25th at Daytona

  • Past at Bristol: Wins in 2012, 2019

MORE: NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

Hamlin has started the playoffs on fire with second-place finishes at Darlington and Kansas. He typically has strong cars at Bristol (four poles) and has three top 10s there in the past seven races.

Joey Logano

  • Points position: 4th

  • Last three races: 17th at Kansas, 4th at Darlington, 12th at Daytona

  • Past at Bristol: Wins in 2014 and 2015

Logano will be looking for a boost at Bristol after losing the point lead last week with a 17th-place finish at Kansas. Although he has won twice on the high-banked track, his has four straight finishes of 11th or worse there.

QUESTIONS TO ANSWER

Kevin Harvick

  • Points position: 16th

  • Last three races: 36th at Kansas, 33rd at Darlington, 20th at Daytona

  • Past at Bristol: Won in 2005, 2016, 2020

Harvick has been battered since scoring back-to-back wins at Michigan and Richmond. He hasn’t scored a top-10 finish since those victories and has had miserable results in the playoffs (36th at Kansas, 33rd at Darlington). Bristol offers a chance at redemption. Harvick has won three times at BMS and has nine top 10s in the past 12 races.

Kyle Busch

  • Points position: 13th

  • Last three races: 26th at Kansas, 30th at Darlington, 10th at Daytona

  • Past at Bristol: 8 wins (active leader)

Busch has had amazing success at Bristol, and he needs more Saturday. Entering the race, he’s the first driver below the cut line, two points behind 12th-place Austin Cindric. Perhaps he’ll have an emotional boost courtesy of the Tuesday press conference in which he revealed he’ll drive for Richard Childress Racing next season.

Tyler Reddick

  • Points position: 11th

  • Last three races: 35th at Kansas, 3rd at Darlington, 2nd at Daytona

  • Past at Bristol: Best finish of fourth

Reddick’s name is the one you barely heard mentioned during Tuesday’s press conference announcing that Kyle Busch would be driving his car next season at Richard Childress Racing. Reddick dropped six points to 11th in the playoff standings last week. He’s two points above the cut line entering Bristol.

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Drivers to watch in NASCAR Cup Series race at Bristol originally appeared on NBCSports.com