NASCAR playoffs at Bristol: How to watch, stream, preview, picks for the Bass Pro Shops Night Race

There are many races in NASCAR, from the cup series to the regional and local levels, which are held at night. But only one gets the distinction of being dubbed simply “The Night Race”.

In 1978 Bristol Motor Speedway installed lights for an annual night race during the second half of the year and the race quickly became one of the most notorious of all stock car races. For whatever reason, be it the bright lightbulbs lining the speedway or the phase of the moon in the night sky, the Bristol Night Race produced the most rowdy races NASCAR had to offer.

Dale Earnhardt rattled Terry Labonte’s cage across the finish line once in 1995 and then again in 1999. Jeff Gordon knocked Rusty Wallace out of the way. Angry and quotable drivers galore from Ward Burton (“I wish I had a total to blow through the wind!”) to Kevin Harvick (“I’m willing to rip someone’s freaking head off!”)

Now the Bristol Night Race has become the round of 16 eliminator, an accolade that has been held since it was moved from late August to mid-September 2020. The high stakes and high pressure only served to heighten the excitement and physicality that this race offers, as seen last year when Kyle Larson capitalized on an on-track dispute between Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott to to take the win before Harvick confronted his young adversary in Elliott.

How to watch the NASCAR playoffs in Bristol

  • Date: Saturday 17 September
  • Location: Bristol Motor Speedway – Bristol, TN
  • Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
  • TV: USA network
  • Electricity: fuboTV (try for free)

Something to see

The playoff picture

With the first two races of the playoffs won by non-playoff drivers — Erik Jones at Darlington and Bubba Wallace at Kansas — very few playoff drivers are truly confident of entering this weekend’s eliminator. The only rider currently securing a place in the round of 16 is Christopher Bell, who is currently 58 points above the cut line.

In theory, most riders should be safe above 25 points above the cutoff line. But only 13 points separate 10th place Daniel Suarez from 15th place Chase Briscoe. Tyler Reddick and Austin Cindric, currently sharing last place in the round of 16, are just two points clear of Kyle Busch and just three points clear of Austin Dillon.

The only rider in an absolute must-win scenario is Kevin Harvick, who is 35 points below the cut line after a fire in Darlington and a crash in Kansas, but that’s a position Harvick has been in before. In 2015, Harvick responded to a similar scenario by winning a playoff elimination race at Dover, holding him in the playoff chase en route to an eventual second place in the championship standings.

  1. #20 – Christopher Bell (+58, place in the round of 16)
  2. #24 – William Byron (+48)
  3. #11 – Denny Hamlin (+47)
  4. #22 – Joey Logano (+40)
  5. #12 – Ryan Blaney (+36)
  6. #48 – Alex Bowman (+30)
  7. #9 – Pursue Elliott (+28)
  8. #5 – Kyle Larson (+27)
  9. #1 – Ross Chastain (+26)
  10. #99 – Daniel Suarez (+6)
  11. #8 – Tyler Reddick (+2)
  12. #2 – Austin Cindric (R) (+2)
  13. #18 – Kyle Busch (-2)
  14. #3 – Austin Dillon (-3)
  15. #14 – Chase Briscoe (-9)
  16. #4 – Kevin Harvick (-35)

The search for 19

In addition to the impact this had on both the driver’s and owner’s playoff standings, Bubba Wallace’s victory in Kansas also made him the 18th other driver to win 28 races so far this season. That’s the all-time most diverse winners in 28 season-opening races in NASCAR history, and it also creates a scenario where the 2022 season could tie or break NASCAR’s record for most diverse winners in a season.

The modern record for most different winners in a season was set in 2001 when 19 different drivers visited the Victory Lane between Michael Waltrip’s season-opening victory at the Daytona 500 and Robby Gordon’s season-ending victory in New Hampshire. The 2022 season will break that record if just one other driver makes the Winner’s Circle, leaving several worthy contenders with eight races remaining.

Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr look set to have a win like they have all season, but neither of them have won at Bristol in their careers. Brad Keselowski has won Bristol three times, most recently in June 2020, but has not had a top-five finish all season. However, his teammate Chris Buescher fought for victory at the last short track race at Richmond, finishing fifth at that circuit in 2016.

However, if you want a true sleeper to be the 19th winner this season, consider Ricky Stenhouse Jr. His record at Bristol is outstanding as he has three second-place finishes (two on concrete, one on clay) and five top- 5 and seven top 10 finishes. Not only that, Stenhouse finished second at a different concrete track at Dover in the spring.

to pay bills

Don’t forget what the history of the Bristol Night Race was: this is as close to a cage match as you’ll get in NASCAR, and Bristol is the ideal place to bring feuds between drivers to the forefront and seek revenge be served.

With that in mind, it’s important to keep track of who’s mad at whom and who should be concerned about a particular driver getting their bumper.

  • Ross Chastain has the absolute number one goal on his back all season based on his work. Denny Hamlin definitely came to terms with him at Pocono, but can the same be said of Kyle Busch or Austin Dillon? What about Martin Truex Jr.? AJ Allmendinger?
  • After being smashed into a wall by Christopher Bell at Darlington, Daniel Suarez made it very clear after the race that he would retaliate and Bell himself admitted last week that he had to “be careful” with Suarez.
  • William Byron is still no match for Joey Logano after Logano bumped and ran him at Darlington in May. Reading between the lines during playoff media day, it doesn’t seem like Byron has forgotten the past or let it rest.

When it comes to riders who rammed them into walls or cost them a chance to win, racers have notoriously long memories. It will be interesting to see who decides to use the chrome horn on someone they intended to use it against.

Choose to win

(Odds via Caesars Sportsbook)

Kyle Busch (+700): There’s a conventional wisdom in auto racing that “lame duck” drivers don’t win championships. That is being tested by Kyle Busch, who announced this week that he will be leaving Joe Gibbs Racing at the end of the 2022 season Join Richard Childress Racing for 2023 and beyond.

Whatever impact his imminent departure may have on his championship chances, this weekend is an ideal stretch for Busch to respond to what the past week has created. Busch is one of the greatest drivers to ever race at Bristol, with nine cup victories including the track’s dirt race last spring. Another Bristol Night Race win would extend Busch’s legacy at No.18 and give his season the kind of life it lacked during his contract dispute and the rumor circus that followed.

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