NASCAR Cup Series heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Through the Gears
Kurt Busch, Aric Almirola, 2019 Cup Series champion Kyle Busch among those on the bubble,
Bristol Motor Speedway provided the cleaver that hacked off 25% of the NASCAR Cup Series playoff field. The postseason said adios to four drivers as the field narrowed to an even dozen. The two who had to win to advance did not while two others, who were outside the cut line going in, were swallowed by the bubble.
Now it’s on to Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
FIRST GEAR: The top 12 drivers going into Bristol in the standings were the same names who had their papers processed for Round 2. Kevin Harvick literally led the post-season parade with his second win in Round 1. He opened the playoffs with a Southern 500 win at Darlington.
Clint Bowyer will start the next round at the back of the bus. He is already 82 points behind Harvick, his teammate at Stewart-Haas Racing, as Round 2 fires off the line. The new bubble fighters are Kurt Busch, Aric Almirola and 2019 Cup Series champion Kyle Busch, who has gone winless this season. When asked about his chances of advancing, Kyle was quick with an answer: “We’ll be eliminated in the next round.”
SECOND GEAR: The four guys left on the playoff chopping block were rookie Cole Custer, William Byron, Ryan Blaney and Matt DiBenedetto, who was hoping to advance for the sake of Wood Brothers Racing.
“I can’t possibly explain to people the emotional roller coaster of doing this for a living,” DiBenedetto said.
THIRD GEAR: The two drivers on a mission right now are Jimmie Johnson, who failed to make the playoffs, and Kyle Busch. Johnson, a seventime Cup champion, hopes to score his 84th career victory before leaving the sport for some IndyCar/sports-car action. Busch’s last win was the 2019 season finale, which took him to the title.
FOURTH GEAR: Brad Keselowski, who won at Richmond to earn a pass into Round 2, said the path forward is simple enough, on paper: “Obviously we just can’t have mechanical failures, those are killers. And I can’t make mistakes and run into the wall.”
Kyle Busch is realistic about his slim chances to stay in the championship hunt: “We’ll be eliminated in the next round.”