This weekend I was busy celebrating my upcoming wedding in Gatlinburg, so I wasn’t able to watch any of the races. My take on anything that happened this weekend is useless, but I find the outcome of the race and where it leaves the Playoff drivers to be drama-filled heading to Bristol.
Currently, we have Aric Almirola +3 above, Kurt Busch above but tied with Bowman who is listed below the cutline. Reddick is -5 points below, Byron is -18 below, and Michael McDowell is all but eliminated with -38 below the cutline and a horrible record at Bristol. I give McDowell a 1% chance of pulling off an upset win, and I would guarantee it’s on luck.
While Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski are still within striking distance to get cut, I think they have enough cushion and experience at Bristol to survive to the next round. The other five names are going to be the ones to watch all day long at Bristol.
With this being our first time visiting the asphalt version of the track it’s hard to gauge how these guys will do without practice and qualifying. We have enough statistical data from previous year’s visits to Bristol to make a solid guess at what these guys are likely to produce. It’s a new year, it’s playoffs and teams can make loads of “improvements” to give their drivers advantages they don’t normally have, but these are things that we can’t predict.
Right off the bat, I wanna get the biggest shock out of the way, I think William Byron is a near-lock to be eliminated from the playoffs. In 6 starts at Bristol, he has 1 top ten and it was in the May race last season. He followed that benchmark up with a 38th place finish after wrecking in the playoffs last season. Before both, he only had 2 top twenty finishes. Bristol is a track he has yet to master and with the poor momentum he’s bringing into this race, I don’t think he’ll be able to make up enough ground without pulling off a miraculous win.
Next up, I think his teammate Alex Bowman will also face his demons at Bristol and end up being eliminated. In Bowman’s 6 starts in HMS equipment, he has gained a top-five and top ten, but back in 2018. Since then, the highest he’s ever finished was 15th back in 2019. Bowman has had a good year but is incredibly inconsistent, and those issues have popped up once again in the playoffs. I think that the guys he needs to beat will be at a better pace the whole day with him.
The final cut spot to me comes down to Almirola and Reddick. I believe Kurt Busch will make it to the next round despite his poor outing at Richmond. His track record at Bristol is near the best in the field, and with his experience, I see this team having a great all-around day and pointing themselves in relatively easily.
The battle will come down to who can get more stage points and avoid accidents between Reddick and Almirola. For me, I give the last playoff spot to Tyler Reddick. Almirola and his team have made improvements since their win at New Hampshire, but still lack the consistency to make a deep playoff run. While Reddick has not set the world on fire yet, he had an amazing run here last year finishing fourth, and is poised for a big run once again.
Almirola has had success at Bristol, but not as often as his failures. He gets caught in a massive amount of wrecks and with the way this team’s luck has gone this season, I don’t think it changes. Reddick on the other hand has done what he’s had to survive up to this point and is one good run away from making it to the next round. It might only be by a single point, but I think Reddick will eliminate both Hendrick drivers and Almirola from the playoffs.
My final playoff prediction: