As we get closer to the playoffs, pressure builds up, and in many ways. For those that are locked in heading into a race, there’s pressure to try new things, while not losing any momentum.
For some that are on the cusp of the cutoff, it’s about getting enough points to where they have a slight cushion to make it in.
And then there’s others who only have one way to make it in…victory.
When it comes to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, that pressure builds up so much that on some occasion, it will blow up like a volcano at a certain track. Often, that track is a small one, where there’s no escape, and the walls come closing in.
Every year when it comes to the Bristol night race, it happens in some way.
Emotions run high, anger comes out, and often the fans get to see the other side of the drivers. From seeing middle fingers in the air, to helmets hurled like a fastball, the blame on someone else, and in the end a few wrecked cars, it all comes to a head at this place. It’s what made it one of the top races on the season, behind Daytona and Darlington (more on that event in a couple weeks).
This time, the pressure is off for not just the race winner, but also many other teams, as now 12 drivers are officially locked into the playoffs with just two races remaining in the regular season.
Those with a win, as low as the win amounts are for some drivers, simply means they can make it to the playoffs without fear of falling out. Those that are on the cusp of falling out from the playoff bubble are under more pressure since each lap could mean they are in, or suddenly out. Those that only have the one way in have probably the most focus, as what they need is a checkered flag.
Two more races left, and at most that means two more winners could make the list, meaning two less spots for those without a victory. It is definitely a high pressure situation, and in the end only the sweet 16 will make it to the playoffs.
Time to turn up the heat. It’s getting good now.
STAGE 1: Ryan Blaney
STAGE 2: Joey Logano
RESULTS: 1-Kurt Busch 2-Larson 3-Elliott 4-Logano 5-Jones 6-Bowyer 7-Blaney 8-Bowman 9-Johnson 10-Harvick
NOTABLE FINISHES: 13-Dillon 20-Kyle Busch 23-Byron 30-Truex Jr.
CAUTIONS: 9 for 70 laps. Lap 4-13 (#19, 43, 96, 95, 7, 32, 34, 47, 00, 18, 66, 78, 13, 11, 12 Incident-FS); 62-66 (Competition); 127-136 (Stage 1 Conclusion); 199-203 (#38 Spin-BS); 252-261 (Stage 2 Conclusion); 353-359 (#51 Incident-T4); 433-445 (#78, 7 Incident-FS); 473-477 (#2 Spin-BS); 483-487 (#37, 18 Incident-T4).
LEAD CHANGES: 19 among 9 drivers. K. Larson 1-13; K. Harvick 14-15; K. Larson 16; R. Blaney 17-62; K. Larson 63; R. Blaney 64-130; A. Almirola 131; K. Harvick 132-137; C. Elliott 138-191; R. Blaney 192-199; A. Almirola 200; J. Logano 201-254; K. Larson 255; J. Logano 256-296; C. Elliott 297-354; K. Larson 355; C. Bowyer 356-441; R. Newman 442; C. Bowyer 443-476; Kurt Busch 477-500.
TIME OF RACE: 2 Hrs, 58 Mins, 35 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 89.538 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 0.367 Seconds
POINTS-Top 10 (Earned/Behind Leader [Playoff Points]): 1. Kyle Busch, 1003 ; 2. Harvick, -43 ; 3. Truex Jr, -154 ; 4. Kurt Busch, -207 ; 5. Bowyer, -227 ; 6. Logano, -235 ; 7. Blaney, -270 ; 8. Keselowski, -273 ; 9. Larson, -274; 10. Hamlin, -296 .
OTHER PLAYOFF DRIVERS: 11. Elliott, -306 ; 13. Jones, -368 ; 19. Dillon, -528