The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs end their Round of 16 on Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway with the short track’s annual night race. The .533-mile oval will switch back to concrete after they poured dirt on the surface for their spring event. It’s the first time since 1961 the track has only run one race on a paved surface.
Nicknamed Thunder Valley, Bristol is the fastest short track on the circuit, known for crashes that happen in a heartbeat. Drivers need to be on their toes for a racetrack so fast, four laps can be run in under a minute.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, NASCAR chose to bypass on-track qualifying for this event. Instead, the field was set due to their off-track metric system created last summer.
Here are the details on how this metric is calculated.
50% of the metric is based on finishing position from the previous race (split between driver and owner).
35% of the metric is the team’s current position in the NASCAR Cup Series owner point standings.
15% of the metric is based on the team’s fastest lap during the previous race.
The team with the lowest total starts on the pole, then the next lowest, etc. until the starting grid is complete. It’s the best compromise the sport could make as they try to keep drivers and team members safe.
Just 38 cars are entered at Bristol, leaving two empty spots on the grid. All 36 teams who have guaranteed spots have come to Thunder Valley along with the full-time “open” No. 37 car JTG Daugherty Racing is fielding with driver Ryan Preece. MBM Motorsports also brought their No. 66 this weekend with David Starr behind the wheel.
Open cars are not guaranteed a spot and, when more than 40 cars are entered, need to qualify for a race on speed.
1. Martin Truex Jr. (P)
2. Denny Hamlin (P)
3. Joey Logano (P)
4. Chase Elliott (P)
5. Kyle Larson (P)
6. Christopher Bell (P)
7. Ryan Blaney (P)
8. Kevin Harvick (P)
9. Kyle Busch (P)
10. Brad Keselowski (P)
11. Alex Bowman (P)
12. Aric Almirola (P)
13. Tyler Reddick (P)
14. William Byron (P)
15. Kurt Busch (P)
16. Michael McDowell (P)
17. Ross Chastain
18. Austin Dillon
19. Matt DiBenedetto
20. Chase Briscoe (R)
21. Daniel Suarez
22. Erik Jones
23. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
24. Ryan Newman
25. Chris Buescher
26. Cole Custer
27. Ryan Preece
28. Bubba Wallace
29. Justin Haley (i)
30. Anthony Alfredo (R)
31. Corey LaJoie
32. BJ McLeod (i)
33. Josh Bilicki
34. Quin Houff
35. JJ Yeley (i)
36. Garrett Smithley (i)
37. James Davison
38. David Starr (i)
(P) – Playoff driver
(R) – Rookie
(i) – Ineligible to collect Cup Series points
- Martin Truex Jr. (pole) will start up front for the third time this year. He’s won six of the last dozen Cup Series short track races but is still seeking his first career win at Bristol.
- Joey Logano (third) is the highest-qualifying Ford.
- Chase Elliott (fourth) is the highest-qualifying Chevrolet. Elliott is still seeking his first win on an oval this season.
- Kevin Harvick (eighth) is the defending race winner. Harvick is one of two playoff drivers still winless 28 races into this season.
- Chase Briscoe (20th) is the highest-qualifying rookie.
- Rick Ware Racing continues their driver merry-go-round. JJ Yeley (35th) moves into the No. 51 car while Garrett Smithley (36th) moves into the No. 53. James Davison (37th) replaces Joey Gase behind the wheel of the No. 15 this week.
- David Starr (38th) makes his third start of the season for MBM and first since Daytona International Speedway in August.
NASCAR Race Breakdown
Race: Bass Pro Shops Night Race
Track: Bristol Motor Speedway (Bristol, Tenn.)
Date: Saturday, Sept. 18
TV: NBCSN, 7:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SIRIUS XM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 500 laps (266.5 miles)
Stage 1: 125 Laps
Stage 2: 125 Laps
Final Stage: 250 Laps
Doug Coby stopped by the "Frontstretch Podcast" to talk about his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut and his win in SRX earlier this season. Then, host Davey Segal and company turn their attention to a crazy 500 laps of racing at Bristol this weekend.