Saturday is a big day for NASCAR as 14 drivers will be battling for 10 playoff spots. Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. have advanced to the Round of 12, and the rest of the field will be determined at the Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee. The race will start at 7:30 p.m. ET and will air on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App.
Hamlin and Truex are in the next round of the playoffs due to them winning the last two races. The four drivers on the bubble are Alex Bowman, Tyler Reddick, William Byron and Michael McDowell. It would be a disappointing end to a great season for McDowell, who won his first Cup Series race this season (Daytona 500).
"We have more speed and more potential in our race cars and more top 10s and more top fives than we've ever had, so on the overall scale it's been a great year," McDowell said when talking his performance the last two races, per NASCAR.com. "The playoffs have been really disappointing and what's so disappointing about it, for me and for all of our guys, is that it's been mistakes. It hasn't been a lack of speed and my guys have done such a great job of getting prepared for the playoffs and we actually had good speed at Darlington and Richmond and we don't have anything to show for it. We obviously crashed at Darlington and then had three pit road speeding penalties at Richmond that took us out of it, but feel like we had a 10th to 15th-place car at both of those racetracks, which is really good for us.
Truex is happy he is in the Round of 12 after winning the Federated Auto Parts 400 Salute to Responders last week. The 41-year-old has put together a Hall of Fame career, winning the Cup Series in 2017 and 31 Cup Series races in an 18-year span. Since winning the Cup Series, Truex has finished runner-up twice in the last three years.
"It's definitely a relief to have that win and not have to worry about Bristol this week," Truex said. "I enjoy racing there and we've had some great cars, but for whatever reason, we have had no luck whatsoever on the Cup side. Whether it's flat tires, loose wheels, speeding penalties, getting caught up in crashes, you name it and it's happened to us at Bristol.