Race Weekend Central

4 Burning Questions: Who Advances in the Playoffs at Bristol?

Who advances in the playoffs at Bristol Motor Speedway?

The Bristol Motor Speedway night race will be cutoff race for the first round of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.

While there are three drivers completely safe from elimination, the top eight-or-so in points should be safe as long as they don’t run into early trouble. Really, the story of this week is the ballads of Matt DiBenedetto and Ryan Blaney.

Blaney had a horrible start to the playoffs and enters Bristol 27 points back. While it’s possible for Blaney to point his way in on a couple of stage wins, he’s really going to need to win. The Ohio native has had speed at Bristol before but has had a lot of bad luck there as well.

DiBenedetto, meanwhile, is 25 points back. Bristol is his best track on the schedule by far, almost winning in dramatic fashion in this race last season and having strong runs there in the past. With DiBenedetto putting even more pressure on himself to win this race, he’s going to have a say on Saturday night.

Everything else in the field is kind of a toss-up, and with how close everybody is at Bristol, anything can happen. Of the drivers kind of in the danger zone, Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch are both cagey veterans who perform well on short tracks. Those two should be able to find a way to advance.

Is this just a little tone deaf?

This week’s Cup race at Bristol will be cosponsored by the NRA.

Yes, that NRA. An organization so pathetic it took a break from being a MAGA bot on Twitter to tweet this out. The same NRA so divorced from its previous ideology of being a non-partisan responsible gun ownership group that it throws temper tantrums over such extreme positions as “Maybe people 18-20 shouldn’t be able to buy a gun” or “Universal background checks should be a thing.” The same NRA that is so obviously now a partisan political organization. The same NRA that has failed at so much it’s attempted to do over the years, even Richard Childress left.

Was that just a bit too political? Yes, it was. Should it be in a column about NASCAR? Well, should such an explicitly political organization be involved with NASCAR after badmouthing the sport? You be the judge on that. Maybe the Smith family forgot about that above tweet when it renewed this sponsorship.

Oh, and if you decide to compare this to a certain race team running an unsponsored paint scheme literally declaring peace, love, and compassion two months ago promoting a movement that most major companies have come out in support of along with bipartisan support, what are you doing? Didn’t you stop watching and reading already?

Can anybody win and get into the Xfinity Series playoffs?

Friday night’s (Sept. 18) race will be the final regular season race of the three NASCAR national touring series, in this case the Xfinity Series.

NXS also seems to be the most academic of the three series this year.

There are just way too many people in these playoffs every season. Just look back at round one last season and how the bottom four in the final regular season standings were also the first four out. This upcoming first round is really just a test for these top teams not to screw up.

If Brandon Brown, Jeremy Clements, Myatt Snyder, Alex Labbe, Josh Williams, Jesse Little or Joe Graf Jr. win, all incredible longshots, they will take the final spot in the playoffs. If not, Brown has a 49-point edge on Clements to take the final spot on points,

As to who has a shot at winning the race itself, the No. 9 Chevrolet of Noah Gragson won there in June and seems to have finally started to settle down in recent months. Which would only aid him in his quest to get a few more playoff points.

The hot hand and probable favorite is the No. 7 of Justin Allgaier. This season seems to have the theme of drivers riding waves of momentum, with Chase Briscoe in the late spring and Austin Cindric in the mid-summer. Now, it’s looking like it’s Allgaier’s turn at the start of fall for at least a couple more weeks.

What are the most recent NASCAR silly season updates?

A couple of fairly big silly season developments have occurred recently in the Cup garage.

Last week, it was announced that Bubba Wallace would be leaving Richard Petty Motorsports. This news was followed by reports by Sports Business Daily on just how valuable the sponsorship Wallace has brought to the team is.

It would be a completely illogical move to leave a team outright offering a big slice of ownership pie and just move on in mid-September with no idea of what’s happening next. Regardless of what decision Wallace has made on the matter, while we obviously don’t have the hindsight of how it looks five years from now, it’s probably the right move right now. Unless it’s something really stupid he isn’t going to do, like a move to Front Row Motorsports or going down to the Xfinity level.

This week, it was announced that Daniel Suarez and Gaunt Brothers Racing would be parting ways at the end of the season. Motorsport quickly followed up by reporting that GBR would be the likely landing place of Wallace and the investors interested in him.

If this is the case, it makes sense. Denny Hamlin was pretty mum a month ago when asked if he was in negotiations to invest in RPM. Getting away from RPM would stop the new team from having way too many cooks in the kitchen, and GBR already has an existing partnership with Toyota, which a Hamlin-invested team almost certainly has to run. Toyota needs life outside of Joe Gibbs Racing at the Cup level; a heavily invested team with significantly more outside sponsorship then any non-JGR Toyota team since Michael Waltrip Racing could actually be the answer there.

Unlike last year, whe he didn’t really have many options, this year Suarez has a few open rides to work toward between the No. 32, No. 37 and Front Row. Suarez’s best option, however, is probably RPM. Suarez is probably the only free agent on the market besides Wallace who could draw sponsorship dollars if the receiving team can tap into a new market for NASCAR. RPM could also turn into the biggest thing Suarez needs in his career: stability.

Suarez has bounced around from team to team in his Cup career and has never really had time to gel with a team, moving up too early and on short notice at JGR before becoming an obvious lame duck midway through his second season. Suarez then served as a one-year stopgap for Cole Custer at Stewart-Haas Racing and has struggled to be competitive with the unchartered GBR car this year. He really needs just a few years to gel in order to show his full potential.

About the author

Michael has watched NASCAR for 20 years and regularly covered the sport from 2013-2021. He moved on to Formula 1, IndyCar, and SRX coverage for the site, while still putting a toe in the water from time-to-time back into the NASCAR pool.

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Carl D.

I don’t come to Frontstretch to read about your politics, Michael, but since that seems to your your mission today, here are a bit of my own political beliefs… the 2nd Amendment is what stands between freedom and government tyranny, and the NRA is the strongest defender of of the second amendment we have. Furthermore, the NRA membership consists of your neighbors, your co-workers, the members of your church, and even readers of Frontstretch. You can write what you want, but excuse me if I find your political diarrhea unwelcome and inappropriate.


“Oh, and if you decide to compare this to a certain race team running an unsponsored paint scheme literally declaring peace, love, and compassion two months ago promoting a movement that most major companies have come out in support of along with bipartisan support, what are you doing? Didn’t you stop watching and reading already?”

Mikey, does this mean you will stop watching and writing until the NRA is out of NASCAR?

Or are we not that lucky?


Who cares? Just four more cars, drivers and sponsors who disappear.

Bill B

I didn’t even realize the NRA was sponsoring the race. Does anyone even care who sponsors the race? I couldn’t tell you who sponsored the last one. I kind of wondered why anyone would even care and then I looked at the author… of course, Lefty strikes again. He just can’t write an article without injecting his politics into it. Why don’t you take a break from being a SJW for a while and just write about the sport? I need to start checking the author before I read so I can just skip the article. I don’t come here to read or discuss politics but if someone wants to go down that road I am more than happy to play along.

Carl D.

Same here, Bill. I’m done with Michael Finley’s columns. I have to endure “woke culture” in enough aspects of my life, and I refuse to entertain it in my escape to sports. I’ve jettisoned the NFL from my life and frankly I don’t miss it. I won’t miss reading Finley’s condescending BS one iota.

Bill B

I don’t even own a gun but I will defend the rights of other to have them and I am glad they do. I don’t just want the thugs to be able to get them. The only people gun control will affect are those that aren’t criminals. You can bet the criminals will be able to find them just fine no matter what laws are in place. Heroin is illegal too but addicts don’t have a problem getting it (well except for the money).


Keep up the good work, Finley. It’s embarrassing that political entities (NRA, Trump 2020 superPAC, hypothetical future Democratic candidate) are allowed in NASCAR, and especially so that the NRA is involved. Keeps the stereotype of “racist ignorant redneck” alive with the non-racing-fan public.


Hey WriterCat, didn’t you last political article kill your career on this very same website last year? Your liberal arts degree is still laying off I see.

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