NASCAR Cup cutoff race at Bristol: Who will win, odds and cut line predictions

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

NASCAR will cap its wreck-heavy opening playoff round with a race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday. The Bass Pro Shops Night Race starts at 7:30 p.m. on NBCSN.

Four drivers will be eliminated from the postseason based on their finish at the 0.533-mile short track. Alex Bowman (0 points to the cut), Tyler Reddick (-5), William Byron (-18) and Michael McDowell (-38) all sit below the cut line entering the race, with Kurt Busch tied with Bowman in points.

Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. each earned a win in the first two playoff races to advance to the next round, along with Kyle Larson on points. Larson and Kyle Busch are the favorites to win this weekend at +450 odds, according to BetMGM.

That means my take isn’t entirely creative, because I’m predicting a Joe Gibbs Racing sweep in the first round with Kyle Busch taking the checkered flag. Busch has the most wins at the track of active playoff drivers with eight career Cup victories at Bristol. He finished second in this race last season, behind Kevin Harvick, and had a top-10 finish at Richmond last weekend (ninth), which could have easily been a top-three had it not been for his late-race speeding penalty.

Plus, the organizational dominance JGR has demonstrated this round is hard to discount. Could Bowman or Byron pull off an upset and ensure another Hendrick car advances with a win? Sure. Bristol’s tight turns are hard on tires and always make for unexpected exits. They’ll be scrapping for positions, along with Kurt Busch, who has six wins in 40 races at Bristol.

As for drivers exiting after this round, Michael McDowell essentially needs to win to advance, which is unlikely given his recent race finishes and track record. His best Cup finish at Bristol was 10th last season. Aric Almirola is starting near Reddick on Saturday with Almirola having just a three-point advantage above the cut heading into the race. He’s in jeopardy, too, since Almirola’s finished in the bottom-20 at Bristol more times than not, and he’s DNF’d 30 percent of his races at the track. Reddick has DNF’d half his Cup races there, but he’s only entered two events (excluding the dirt race). He crashed out once compared to Almirola’s seven early exits in 23 Bristol Cup races. Byron has DNF’d 17 percent of his Bristol entries, Bowman sits at 10% and Kurt Busch just below eight percent.

It’s not a perfect measure, but an early exit for any of those drivers would make all the difference. Therefore, I predict Kurt Busch and Bowman will sneak through to the Round of 12, while Almirola will drop below the cutoff, joining Byron, Reddick and McDowell among the drivers eliminated from the playoffs.

Martin Truex Jr. is starting on the pole with Denny Hamlin in the front row.

How to watch NASCAR Cup race at Bristol

  • Race: Bass Pro Shops Night Race

  • When: Saturday, September 18

  • Time: 7:30 p.m. EST

  • TV: NBCSN

  • Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

  • Distance: 266.5 miles (500 Laps) with stages ending on laps 125, 250 and 500

NASCAR at Bristol Night Race Cup starting order

Order

Driver

Car No.

1

Martin Truex Jr.

19

2

Denny Hamlin

11

3

Joey Logano

22

4

Chase Elliott

9

5

Kyle Larson

5

6

Christopher Bell

20

7

Ryan Blaney

12

8

Kevin Harvick

4

9

Kyle Busch

18

10

Brad Keselowski

2

11

Alex Bowman

48

12

Aric Almirola

10

13

Tyler Reddick

8

14

William Byron

24

15

Kurt Busch

1

16

Michael McDowell

34

17

Ross Chastain

42

18

Austin Dillon

3

19

Matt DiBenedetto

21

20

Chase Briscoe

14

21

Daniel Suárez

99

22

Erik Jones

43

23

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

47

24

Ryan Newman

6

25

Chris Buescher

17

26

Cole Custer

41

27

Ryan Preece

37

28

Bubba Wallace

23

29

Justin Haley

77

30

Anthony Alfredo

38

31

Corey LaJoie

7

32

BJ McLeod

78

33

Josh Bilicki

52

34

Quin Houff

0

35

JJ Yeley

51

36

Garrett Smithley

53

37

James Davison

15

38

David Starr

66

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting