What to Watch: 2022 Bristol Night Race

·6 min read

Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway
(⏰ 7:30 p.m. ET | 📺 USA Network, NBC Sports App | 📻 PRN, SiriusXM)

Everything you need to know for Saturday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Bristol, the first elimination event of the 2022 campaign.

Where: Bristol, Tennessee
Approximate start time: 7:30 p.m. ET | Weekend schedule
TV/Radio: USA, NBC Sports App, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio | Full TV schedule
The purse: $8,338,394
Forecast: Mostly clear, with a low around 56 degrees, according to NOAA.gov | Weather tracker
Race distance: 500 laps | 266.5 miles
Stages: 125 | 250 | 500
Pit-road speed: 30 mph
Caution car speed: 35 mph
Bristol 101: Get the full lowdown
Starting lineup:
Where drivers will start
Pit stalls: Where drivers will pit
Practice/Qualifying: Aric Almirola earns Busch Light Pole

Playoff grid: Print yours now

Key things to watch 🔑

Big story line

Here it is. The first elimination race of the 2022 season. Four drivers will see their title hopes come to an end at the “Last Great Colosseum,” one of the most iconic tracks in NASCAR’s history. Two champions of the sport, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, find themselves below the cutline alongside Austin Dillon and Chase Briscoe. And coincidentally, Busch and Harvick are two of the most dominant active drivers at the 0.533-mile high-banked oval. On a night where 500 laps may as well feel like an eternity, it will likely come down to the final laps to determine which drivers move on to the Round of 12. The key is being there at the end. Easier said than done as the door-to-door battles ramp up near the finish. Don’t be the first one out.

Who’s hot? Who’s not? 

When Kevin Harvick won at Michigan International Speedway, the pressure was off the entire No. 4 team. Now, the pressure is back on. The two opening Round of 16 races were not kind to Harvick, leaving him sunken to the bottom of the playoff standings. But here’s the deal. This is Bristol — where Harvick has been red hot over the last six seasons. Harvick has nine top 10s, including two wins, in his last 12 races at the Colosseum. He has led a total of 782 laps in his last 16. Not many have been better than ‘the Closer’ when it’s closing time. He needs a win and he should be among the favorites to get it done on Saturday night.

With how much success Chase Elliott has had at almost every track, he has been pretty tame at Bristol by his standards. Elliott’s best career finish at the Tennessee track is third (2018), and while he has had five finishes of seventh or better in 11 starts here, he also has six finishes of 11th or worse. The 2022 Regular Season Champion came into the playoffs with extra points but sputtering momentum. Since Watkins Glen International, he has two finishes outside the top 28. Points may not be an issue moving through the Round of 16, but maybe Bristol can be a positive turning point in the No. 9 team’s quest for a second championship.

Driving under the radar

Brad Keselowski might not be the most popular pick to win on Saturday, but he is a good one. Keselowski has three wins at the track, albeit with Team Penske, and three top sixes in his last four races here. He simply knows how to navigate around the race track. All eyes will be on the playoff drivers as expected, but as the first two races have shown, non-playoff drivers have just as much motivation to reach Victory Lane. A win for Keselowski in his first season with RFK Racing would be a huge statement. He has the talent and ability to do it, strongly shown by his 10th-place effort in qualifying.

Bristolmotorspeedway Nightrace 2021
Bristolmotorspeedway Nightrace 2021

Race-day staples ✅

Our biggest pieces of the week — get covered for race day from all angles.

• Bubble Watch, presented by Xfinity: Where drivers stand before Bristol | Latest driver standing
• Paint Scheme Preview:
Colors for the Colosseum | Pick a favorite
• Power Rankings: Alex Bowman, William Byron surging | Updated driver rankings
• NASCAR betting:  Odds for Saturday’s Bristol playoff race | Underdogs, value bets
• Fantasy Fastlane: Kevin Harvick needs to win at Bristol | Top plays, sleepers
• Backseat Drivers: Debating which driver will get eliminated on Saturday | Watch the segment

Catch the pack 💨

Read up on the top headlines from the week leading up to Saturday’s race.

• 2023 schedule: See the latest slate for all three national series | Read more
• Kyle Busch:
Two-time champion leaving JGR to join RCR in ’23 |Read more
• Reactions:
Toyota, JGR react to Busch’s announcement | Read more
• Contract:
Kyle Larson signs with Hendrick Motorsports through 2026 | Read more
• Austin Dillon:
Driver reveals contract extension for pit crew | Watch video
• Reddick chimes in:
Not surprised Busch is getting 8 car | Read more
• Joey Logano:
Reacts to Kyle Busch heading to RCR, tells similar story | Listen in
• Track history:
NASCAR’s history of racing at unique tracks | Learn more
• Heading to Phoenix:
Ty Majeski punches Championship 4 ticket with Thursday win | Race recap

Get in on the action 💰

Think you know NASCAR? Put your mettle to the test with gaming, fantasy.

• BetMGM: Breaking down the Bristol driver matchups | Read more
• The Action Network:
Should you pick Kyle Busch at Bristol? | Matchup insight
• Play it LIVE: Full guide to 2022 NASCAR Fantasy Live game | New rules for playoffs
• Going all the way:
2022 Cup Series championship odds | See them here

Will Larson win the Bristol Night Race again? - Powered By PickUp

Chaos at the Colosseum ⚔️

It gets wild at Bristol, especially after dark. Relive some of the most memorable moments in track history.

• Do you remember? Back to some memorable moments at Bristol | Relive them
• At-track photos:
Scenes from Bristol Night Race weekend | See them here
• Last year:
Kyle Larson fends off Kevin Harvick for the win | 2021 recap
• Race Rewind:
Bristol win for Larson, hot heads on pit road | Watch highlights

Fast facts ⏩

Hard-hitting, race-relevant statistics, brought to you by the experts at Racing Insights.

There has never been a stretch of three straight playoff wins by non-playoff drivers (currently at two).
Christopher Bell is the only driver locked into the Round of 12 so far.
The last time Ford won a playoff race was 16 races ago at Kansas in 2020 (Joey Logano).
All four Hendrick Motorsports drivers won on a short track in the last nine races.
The driver leading the most laps won only one of the last nine races of 2022.

Say what? 🎙

Notable quotes from the stars of the sport heading into Saturday’s race.

“It absolutely feels good. Man, what a ride to rip around here in less than 15 seconds. It‘s pretty crazy how fast these cars are at this race track, but I‘m just proud of my team, proud of everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing. They brought me a really fast BlueOval City Ford Mustang. We were good in race trim and obviously had a lot of speed in qualifying trim, so now we‘ve got to go do it for 500 laps.” — Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford

• “We‘re in a good spot and we definitely feel good about how we‘ve started the playoffs from a speed standpoint. We still need to clean up a few things and execute better if we‘re going to have a shot to continue advancing beyond this round, but I‘m confident going to Bristol this weekend. It would be nice if we can qualify up front and stay there all night to give ourselves a chance to pick up some more playoff points.” — Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, who qualified fourth

“The addition of Kyle Busch to the Richard Childress Racing lineup is significant, not only for our organization, but for the sport as a whole. Kyle is a proven contender at the highest levels of the sport, and I believe that his experience and dedication to motorsports will elevate our race program across the board. I‘ve always admired Kyle‘s driving style and his ability to win and race for championships ever since he entered the sport. Who wouldn‘t want a proven NASCAR Cup Series champion driving their car?” — Richard Childress, owner of Richard Childress Racing