The NASCAR Cup Series ends the Round of 16 portion of their 10-race playoff with Saturday night's Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. At the end of 500 laps at this .533-mile oval, the number of championship-eligible drivers will be cut from 16 to 12.
No one knows quite what to expect at Bristol’s lone pavement race of the year. The track nicknamed Thunder Valley is known for how lightning-fast you run; Saturday’s pole-sitter, Aric Almirola, turned a lap in less than 15 seconds. Action happens quickly, with speeds averaging almost 130 miles an hour, and crashes in front of you are often unavoidable.
Bristol will be even more chaotic under the lights with so many drivers still fighting to keep their championship hopes alive. Just one of the 16 contenders, Christopher Bell, is guaranteed a spot while sixth through 14th in the standings are separated by just 31 points.
But don’t count out the rest of the field, either. The first two postseason races have been won by non-playoff drivers for the first time since this format began, and Almirola is still seeking his first victory of 2022. Parity continues to reign supreme during the sport’s first year of competing with the Next Gen chassis.
Just 36 cars showed up for this edition of the Bass Pro Shops Night Race, all of whom had a guaranteed spot in the field. No “open” team has made a qualifying attempt during the three playoff races thus far.
1. Aric Almirola
2. Chase Briscoe (P)
3. Alex Bowman (P)
4. Denny Hamlin (P)
5. Kyle Larson (P)
6. Ryan Blaney (P)
7. Kevin Harvick (P)
8. Christopher Bell (P)
9. Austin Cindric (R) (P)
10. Brad Keselowski
11. Cole Custer
12. Ross Chastain (P)
13. A.J. Allmendinger (i)
14. Bubba Wallace (P)* Owner’s title
15. Joey Logano (P)
16. William Byron (P)
17. Tyler Reddick (P)
18. Michael McDowell
19. Justin Haley
20. Chris Buescher
21. Kyle Busch (P)
22. Martin Truex Jr.
23. Chase Elliott (P)
24. Erik Jones
25. Ty Gibbs (i)
26. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
27. Harrison Burton (R)
28. Austin Dillon (P)
29. Daniel Suarez (P)
30. Todd Gilliland (R)
31. Corey LaJoie
32. Cody Ware
33. BJ McLeod (i)
34. Ty Dillon
35. Landon Cassill (i)
36. JJ Yeley (i)
(R) – Rookie
(i) – Ineligible to collect Cup Series points
(P) – Playoff driver
- Aric Almirola (first) earned his first pole position since Nashville Superspeedway in June 2021. Almirola will be the first Ford driver to start up front at Bristol since Greg Biffle in March 2012.
- Chase Briscoe (second) has the best starting position of any playoff driver.
- Alex Bowman (third) has posted back-to-back top-5 qualifying efforts for the first time all season. He’s also the highest-qualifying Chevrolet driver.
- Denny Hamlin (fourth) was the highest-qualifying Toyota driver.
- Kyle Larson (fifth) is the defending race winner.
- Austin Cindric (ninth) was the highest-qualifying rookie.
- AJ Allmendinger (13th) replaces Noah Gragson behind the wheel of the No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet. Allmendinger, the regular season NASCAR Xfinity Series champion, is running a limited schedule in Cup this year.
- Regular-season Cup champion Chase Elliott (23rd) has qualified outside the top 20 for all three playoff races this year.
- Ty Gibbs (25th) continues to sub for Kurt Busch in the No. 23 23XI Racing Toyota. Busch is recovering from a concussion suffered at Pocono Raceway in July.
- Daniel Suarez (29th) was the worst-qualifying playoff driver.
NASCAR Race Breakdown
Race: Bass Pro Shops Night Race
Track: Bristol Motor Speedway (Bristol, Tenn.)
Date: Saturday, Sept. 17
TV: USA Network, 7:30 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SIRIUS XM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 500 laps (266.5 miles)
Stage 1: 125 Laps
Stage 2: 125 Laps
Stage 3: 250 Laps
This week’s Frontstretch Podcast With Bryan Nolen welcomes Chris Carrier, crew chief for Parker Kligerman in the Camping World Truck Series. Carrier chats about the challenges of working with a small team before host Bryan Nolen turns to some big predictions at the NASCAR Cup Series level. See who he and co-host Michael Bachmann think will squeak by the Bristol chaos and move forward into the next round of the Cup playoffs.