Jacksonville Sports Day

NASCAR: Bristol Motor Speedway Sets the Stage for the Playoffs’ Round of 16 Cutoff

The stage is set, and the anticipation is high for this Saturday’s NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Round of 16 cutoff race, the Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Three Playoff drivers have locked themselves into the Round of 12 by either wins or points in the first two races of the Round of 16 – Denny Hamlin (won at Darlington), Martin Truex Jr. (won at Richmond) and Kyle Larson (clinched on points) – leaving nine spots still up for grabs this weekend.

The 2021 season marks the second time the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff’s third race has been held at Bristol Motor Speedway and just the second Cup postseason event at the 0.533-mile track. Bristol Motor Speedway (2020-2021) is the fifth different track in series history to host the third race of the Playoffs; joining Talladega Superspeedway (2004-2005), Kansas Speedway (2006–2010), Dover International Speedway (2011-2017) and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course (2018-2019). During the Playoff Era from 2004-2019, Bristol Motor Speedway was scheduled as the 24th race of the regular season.

A total of 13 different drivers have won the third race of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, led by Jimmie Johnson (2008, 2013), Greg Biffle (2007, 2010), Tony Stewart (2006, 2009) and Kevin Harvick (2015, 2020) with two victories each.

Three times the third race of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs has been won by a non-Playoff driver. In 2005, NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett was 14th in points when he won the Talladega Superspeedway Playoff race. Then in 2006, NASCAR Hall of Famer Tony Stewart was ranked 11th in points when he won the Kansas Speedway Playoff race. And finally, Greg Biffle was ranked 14th in points when he won the 2007 Kansas Playoff race.

Since the inception of the Playoffs in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2004, three times the winner of the third race of the postseason has gone on to win the title that same year.

In 2008, Jimmie Johnson won the third race of the Playoffs at Kansas Speedway and went on to win his third consecutive title. It was his first of three Playoff wins that season (Kansas, Martinsville-2, Phoenix-2). In 2012, Brad Keselowski won the third race of the Playoffs at Dover International Speedway and went on to win his first series title. It was Keselowski’s lone win during the 2012 Playoffs.

Then in 2013, Jimmie Johnson won the third race of the Playoffs at Dover International Speedway and went on to win his sixth series title. It was his first of two Playoff wins that season (Dover-2, Texas-2) for the then Hendrick Motorsports driver.

In total Bristol Motor Speedway has hosted 120 NASCAR Cup Series races dating back to the inaugural event on July 30, 1961 – the race was won by Jack Smith (with relief from Johnny Allen) driving a Pontiac. The 120 NASCAR Cup Series races at Bristol have produced 51 different pole winners and 42 different race winners.

NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip leads the series in wins at Bristol Motor Speedway with 12 victories; including eight straight (1978, 1979, 1981 sweep, 1982 sweep, 1983 sweep, 1984, 1986, 1989, 1992). Six former Cup Bristol winners are entered this weekend, led by Kyle Busch with eight victories (Spring 2007, 2009 sweep, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019). Kevin Harvick is the most recent winner at the track taking the checkered in this event last season.

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