Chaos struck throughout the entire field, from start to finish, as drivers raced aggressively to get into the Round of 12, under the lights at Bristol Motor Speedway. The green flag dropped with pole sitter Aric Almirola clearing Chase Briscoe for the lead. However, his lead didn’t last long as a hard-charging Ryan Blaney would take away the first spot by lap 36. The night’s first caution came out for J.J. Yeley, who was slow on the track after blowing a right front tire. Once the race was back under green flag conditions, Brad Keselowski captured the lead over last week’s winner, Bubba Wallace. Tire issues continued as on lap 83, Austin Cindric blew a right front tire becoming the first playoff driver of the night to struggle with significant implications of making the Round of 12.
It was a blown right front tire once again that would bring out the caution once again on lap 92, as Ryan Blaney’s tire blew causing Almirola to spin in an attempt to avoid running into him. At the restart Brad Keselowski, still having yet to pit, retained his lead over second-place Tyler Reddick, eventually going on to win the stage. Meanwhile, problems continued for Ryan Blaney as he was cursed with a broken toe link after his earlier contact with the wall after losing his right front. William Byron managed to lock himself into the next round as a result of his performance in the first stage.
At the start of stage two, Chris Buescher led on the outside over Kevin Harvick. The chaos would erupt again, however, as the caution flag was once again displayed by lap 139, as Harrison Burton spun due to contact from Austin Cindric. Meanwhile, Martin Truex Jr. lost power steering, putting him out of the race. Upon the restart, Buescher once again held his lead over Harvick. Mechanical failures continued to plague Toyota drivers as both 23XI drivers, Bubba Wallace, and Ty Gibbs suffered from them within ten laps of one another. For Harrison Burton the night continued to be one of pain, as he once again was struck with a flat right-front at lap 196, making Erik Jones spin and bringing out the caution. Simultaneously as tire issues continued, mechanical issues did as well as both Alex Bowman and Denny Hamlin radioed in about having power steering issues.
Back under green flag conditions, Buescher continued to dominate over Harvick for the lead. It didn’t take long, however, for the caution flag to return once again. This time it was Denny Hamlin who blew a right front tire. At the restart, a lead change took place as Christopher Bell took over the lead, going on to win the stage. As a result of their performance in stage two, Hamlin, Bowman, and Joey Logano, locked themselves into the Round of 12. Disaster struck in the final stage for playoff drivers as Kyle Busch’s engine expired, putting him out of the race and out of the Round of 12. Busch, however, wasn’t the only playoff driver to find themselves in hot water as Daniel Suárez got loose into turn three, colliding with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in the process. As a result of this, a major stack-up ensued, leading both Richard Childress Racing teams to be left with damage as well as Alex Bowman. In good news though, Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, and Ross Chastain locked themselves into the Round of 12 based on their race performances.
Once the race was back underway, Bell held onto the lead in the outside lane, over Kyle Larson. Bell continued to lead over the rest of the field until lap 352 as Cindric continued to struggle with tire issues, once again blowing a right front tire. At the return of the green flag, Larson and Bell swapped positions as Larson now led the field. Soon after, however, Brad Keselowski pulled a slide job on Larson to take over the lead from him. Right fronts continued to blow as Joey Logano’s right front tire blew at lap 397. By lap 414, Keselowski blew a tire, allowing Christopher Bell to reclaim the lead. However, he too would face the terror of a blown right rear tire, causing the yellow flag to once again be flown.
Chris Buescher took the lead once again at the restart over William Byron. The remainder of the race was nearly uneventful, except that mechanical failures continued as Joey Logano headed to the garage. Despite Chase Elliott’s gaining speed, he was no match for Chris Buescher who would go on to win the race, becoming the 19th different race winner this season. And since Austin Cindric was able to stay on track, he nabbed the final playoff spot in the Round of 12 eliminating Kyle Busch’s hopes at another championship.
Featured image credits to @Nascarpixtures on Twitter.