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There were a few shocking surprises when NASCAR reduced its playoff field of 16 drivers in the Bass Pro Shops 500 to 12 on Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway. Michael McDowell, Aric Almirola, Tyler Reddick and former champion Kurt Busch did not do well enough to advance into the upcoming round two races in Las Vegas, Talladega and Charlotte.

Kyle Larson won the 500 lap round in front of Kevin Harvick, William Byron, Ryan Blaney and Alex Bowman on the 800 meter long concrete oval with high steepness in eastern Tennessee. It was a relatively tame race in Bristol, with only eight warnings for 71 laps, three of which were “administrative warnings”. Only 13 of the 38 starters – far fewer than usual – were involved in any spin or contact in any way. Larson led seven times for 175 laps, which were high in the race, including the final four after overtaking Harvick in heavy traffic. It was his series-leading sixth win that year, his first in 13 Bristol career starts.

As usual with playoff cutoff races, the 500-lap itself was not as convincing as the rankings after the race. That was especially true on Saturday night, when this year’s Daytona 500 winner, a former champion, a Richard Childress Racing driver and a Stewart-Haas Racing driver were eliminated.

When the race started, Darlington winners were Denny Hamlin, Richmond -Winner Martin Truex Jr. and regular season champion Larson already certain that they would move into round 2 Line and Elliott was 19 across the line. Christopher Bell was at 17 and Brad Keselowski at 13. The eight-time Bristol winner Kyle Busch was eight, Almirola was three and the six-time Bristol winner Kurt Busch was with Bowman in 12th place, the last transfer place.

Reddick was five points below the line, Byron was 18 below, and McDowell was 38 below. Based on his sixth place in Darlington in the first playoff race, Kurt Busch held the tie-break ahead of Bowman, whose best result in the first two races last weekend in Richmond was 12th. As it turned out, this tiebreaker never came into play as Byron beat Busch 16 positions to move forward easily and leave Busch behind. Byron’s fifth place was his seventh top 5 finish of the season, which is the same as his 2019 season, when he also got seven top 5 finishes; however, this came as a very opportune time.

Halfway through the 500 laps, Logano, Blaney and Harvick had collected enough stage points to assert themselves on lap 2. Shortly thereafter, Elliott had enough points to move forward with them. And when the chessboard waved, Bell, Byron, Kyle Busch, Keselowski and Bowman had advanced too.

McDowell was the longest of this year’s playoff longshot. He was in the right place at the right time to win the Daytona 500 season opener when most of the drivers in front of him retired on the final lap. That was the first of only two top five that year (the other was a third in Talladega in the spring) and that was two of only five in his 386 starter career.

He was for most of the year a high-teen runner, on average he started 17th and finished 21st. Even with the 500 win, he would finish 18th to 22nd in the 16 regular races of the season. His playoff hopes have all but vanished with his 37th in Darlington at the opening of the first round and his 28th last weekend in Richmond. He reached Bristol in 16th place among the playoff drivers, 38 points below the cut line. His only real chance to advance was to win on Saturday night, and his 24th place was nowhere near enough.

Based on his six BMS victories in his career, Kurt Busch’s unusual 19th place was one of the biggest surprises in the In the evening. He fell behind at the start and rarely got any higher than the middle to high teens. He went from a direct position on the cutoff line to a fall six points before advancing. “That wasn’t a World Cup-like attempt,” said Busch. “We missed it a lot. We were unlucky last week and have no chance of a championship this year. We have to fight for pride, dignity and honor over the next few weeks. ”

Almirola’s crew bravely tried to fix an oil leak that occurred on lap 175. He was easily over the cut line for most of the night, but several pit stops to plug the leak caused him to fall down the point ladder. In the end, he finished 18th in the leading lap, but that wasn’t quite enough because he missed a six point lead. “Our season as a whole wasn’t what we wanted,” he said. “We went to Loudon and won and had a new sense of energy to go to the playoffs. We thought we’d do whatever it took to get to the next round in that first round. ”

Reddick and his RCR crew didn’t do anything particularly wrong … but they didn’t do anything particularly right either. His 12th place in the first round gave him two points before advancing to the second round. “It stinks, but we can still do the last six or seven races,” he said afterwards. Our starting positions and pit lane won’t be that good, but everything else on the track will be. We’ll make the most of these races. ”

Round 2 with 12 riders starts on Sunday in Las Vegas and then goes to Talladega on consecutive weekends, then to the Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway. This three-race mini-series will reduce the playoff field of the 12-driver championship to eight.

Ref: https://www.autoweek.com