It’s Go Time for The Cup Series In “Thunder Valley” Round of 16 cutoff Race

©2020 Action Sports Photography, Inc

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 NRA 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 – Kevin Harvick (won Darlington), Brad Keselowski (won Richmond) and Denny Hamlin (clinched on points) – leaving nine spots still up for grabs this weekend. 

The 2020 season marks the first time the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff’s third race has been held at Bristol Motor Speedway and the first Cup postseason event at the 0.533-mile track. Bristol 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).

A total of 13 different drivers have won the third race of the Playoffs, led by Jimmie Johnson (2008, 2013), Greg Biffle (2007, 2010), and Tony Stewart (2006, 2009) with two 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.

Third Race of the Playoffs – Race Winners
TrackPlayoff Race WinnersDate
Charlotte RCChase ElliottSunday, September 29, 2019
Charlotte RCRyan BlaneySunday, September 30, 2018
DoverKyle BuschSunday, October 1, 2017
DoverMartin Truex JrSunday, October 2, 2016
DoverKevin HarvickSunday, October 4, 2015
DoverJeff GordonSunday, September 28, 2014
DoverJimmie JohnsonSunday, September 29, 2013
DoverBrad KeselowskiSunday, September 30, 2012
DoverKurt BuschSunday, October 2, 2011
KansasGreg BiffleSunday, October 3, 2010
KansasTony StewartSunday, October 4, 2009
KansasJimmie JohnsonSunday, September 28, 2008
KansasGreg BiffleSunday, September 30, 2007
KansasTony StewartSunday, October 1, 2006
TalladegaDale JarrettSunday, October 2, 2005
TalladegaDale Earnhardt JrSunday, October 3, 2004

Since the inception of the Playoffs 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 Keselowskiwon 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 Hendrick Motorsports driver.

The worst finish by a driver in the third NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race that went on to win the series title that same season was: 

  • At the Charlotte Road Course (2018-2019): In 2019, Kyle Busch finished 37th at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course – the third race of the Playoffs – and went on to win the title later that season.
  • At Dover (2011-2017): In 2011, Tony Stewart finished 25th at Dover International Speedway – the third race of the Playoffs – and went on to win the title later that season.
  • At Kansas (2006-2010): In 2006, Jimmie Johnson finished 14th at Kansas Speedway – the third race of the Playoffs – and went on to win the title later that season.
  • At Talladega (2004-2005): In 2004, Kurt Busch finished fifth at Talladega Superspeedway – the third race of the Playoffs – and went on to win the title later that season.

In total Bristol Motor Speedway has hosted 119 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 119 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).  Eight 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), followed by Kurt Busch (six wins), Matt Kenseth (four), Brad Keselowski (three), Joey Logano (two), Kevin Harvick (two), Jimmie Johnson (two) and Denny Hamlin (two).

Sharing is caring!