Kevin Harvick edges Kyle Busch down the stretch in the Bass Pro Shops Night Race as the field of the Round of 12 gets set
It was as close to Thunder Valley as it can get. Cars roaring around the track, and upwards of 30,000 spectators in attendance, Bristol Motor Speedway felt almost like it usually does. Those fans got to see the first elimination race of the playoffs with just three of the dozen spots taken. The Bass Pro Shops Night Race would purge four drivers from a chance at the title, and it all started with the winner Kevin Harvick.
“Bristol, baby!” Harvick shouted, arms raised to the crowd. “I was so jacked up when we started this race because of you guys. To beat Kyle Busch at Bristol … just kept fighting, we didn’t have anything to lose. Just trying to win a race.”
Not that Harvick needed the win, it was the ninth of the season and a career-best; he kept the 2020 winless streak of Kyle Busch going. He won by 0.310-seconds. Still, Busch clinched his spot in the next round of the playoffs despite not finding victory lane.
“Just didn’t have enough there at the end,” Busch said.
The drivers for the Round of 12 is Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman, Martin Truex Jr., Austin Dillon, Kyle Busch, Aric Almirola, and Clint Bowyer. The four drivers eliminated were Cole Custer, Matt DiBenedetto, Ryan Blaney, and William Byron.
The last 200 laps it was a back and forth between Harvick and Busch, but with 32 to go, the No. 4 would take a lead he would not surrender. He would lead a race-high 226 laps.
BASS PRO SHOPS NIGHT RACE STAGE 1
LAP 1 of 500 (266.5 miles): See Prerace Notes – Brad Keselowski (pole) and Joey Logano lead the field to green for the Bass Pro Shops Night Race. All playoff drivers slated to start P1-16, except those sent to the rear (see above) after lineups set. Keselowski to the point with Kevin Harvick jumping ahead of Logano. Harvick takes the lead at Lap 18.
LAP 29 (Becomes Competition Caution): Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Camaro) comes down on the nose of Rickey Stenhouse (No. 47 Camaro), sending him into the inside wall and out of the race. Timmy Hill gets the free pass. 32 of the 40 drivers on the lead lap. Tyler Reddick and Matt DiBenedetto pace the field to the restart at Lap 41.
LAP 86: Kyle Busch breaks into the top-ten after starting at the rear because his No. 18 Camry failed inspection twice. Top-five: Keselowski, Elliott, DiBenedetto, Harvick, and Logano. At Lap 100, Busch took over fourth. Lap 110, Chase Elliott takes charge with Busch in hot pursuit.
LAP 125: End Stage 1. Chase Elliott holds off a charging Kyle Busch for the stage win. It was his third straight at Bristol. Rookie Christopher Bell and Buba Wallace are only non-playoff drivers in the top-ten. Corey Lajoie is the Lucky Dog. 28 cars on the lead lap. Kyle Busch is first off pit row, followed by Elliott, Harvick, Alex Bowman, Ku Busch, Keselowski, Logano, and William Byron. Logano has clinched a spot in the next round. Six spots left. Restart Lap 137 with Kyle Busch on the point.
LAP 170: Kyle Busch maintains his lead by a half-second over Elliott. Kurt Busch has broken into the top-five. Two drivers on the verge of elimination, Cole Custer and Ryan Blaney, have dropped out of the top20. Bell is the only non-playoff driver still in the top-ten (P9). Matt DiBenedetto had to pit under green at Lap 187 because of a loose right-rear wheel. He would drop to P29, three laps in arrears, and put him in jeopardy of being eliminated before the race ends.
LAP 213: Martin Truex Jr. makes a green flag stop with a flat, but when he got back on to the track, Denny Hamlin ran into the back of the No. 19 Camry. Hamlin’s No. 11 Camry suffers significant front end damage but continues. He has already clinched a spot in the Round of 12.
LAP 232: William Byron ran into the back of the No. 95 of Christopher Bell, who had checked up, suffering radiator damage and no oil pressure bringing out the yellow flag. He was running tenth at the time. Jimmie Johnson is the only non-playoff driver in the top-ten. Race off pit row: Kyle Busch, Harvick, Logano (+1), Elliott (-1), Kurt Busch, Bowman, (+1), Bowyer (+3), Almirola (+1), E Jones (+2), and Austin Dillon (+4). Keselowski gets the Lucky Dog. Restart Lap 242 with 24 cars on the lead lap.
LAP 249 (Ends Stage 2): Ryan Newman brings out the caution with a spin in Turn 2. Matt DiBenedetto is back on the lead lap with the free pass but gets caught speeding on pit row. He was already starting at the back of the field. Kyle Busch wins the stage for just his second of the entire 2020 campaign. Restart Lap 261.
PLAYOFF CHASE UPDATE: With Bowyer picking up stage points, William Byron officially eliminated. Chase Elliott clinches and will advance. Five spots left. Blaney and Dibenedetto cannot advance on points and are in a must-win situation. Bowyer has a 26-point advantage over Cole Custer for the final transfer spot.
“I think the No. 51 car (Joey Gase) checked up in the middle of the straightaway,” said Byron. “As fast as we were running the top, I was right behind the No. 95 (Christopher Bell), and I had literally nowhere to go. You can’t stop in the middle of the straightaway when everybody is so committed to the top like that. Just ridiculous that that’s what takes us out.”
Lap 281: Kevin Harvick passes Kyle Busch for the lead. It was the 11th lead change to this point. Twenty-five cars still on the lead lap. Alex Bowman green flag stop Lap 301, loose wheel. Hamlin falls a lap down. Twenty-one cars on the lead lap with DiBenedetto in P21 but is put back a lap down at Lap 316, and Harvick has a one-second advantage over Kyle Busch. Keselowski black-flagged for not meeting the minimum speed and is behind the wall.
LAP 335: Kyle Busch pits under green and falls two laps back, but is now on the bubble in 12th just ahead of Cole Custer, who has significant front end damage. Harvick, Kyle Busch, Elliott, Bowyer, and Logano the top-five. Rookie Tyler Reddick is holding down P6 and moves to fifth with 150 to go. Only a dozen cars left on the lead lap.
AND DOWN THE STRETCH THEY COME
LAP 370: Green flag stops underway. Kurt Busch, down two laps, holding on to a 20-point advantage over Cole Custer for the final playoff spot. DiBenedetto (-30) and Blaney (-41) are P15 and P-16, respectively.
LAP 406: Caution for No. 53 spin in Turn 1. “The No 3 (Austin Dillon) wrecked us,” said James Davidson. The No 77 of Reed Sorenson also caught up. Dillon was the first car a lap down, but because he “caused the accident,” he was ineligible for the free pass. Only six cars on the lead lap with Harvick first off pit row. Kyle Busch, Bowyer, Reddick, Almirola, and Jones followed. Lap cars DiBenedetto, A Dillon, Chris Buescher, and Ryan Preece stay out. Restart with 82 to go.
LAP 462: New leader, Kyle Busch. With 32 to go, Harvick regains the lead when Joey Logano held Busch up. Busch, still winless this season, is trying to chase down Harvick, looking for his ninth checkers. Erik Jones is running third. Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, Alex Bowman, and Marton Truex Jr. have clinched. Three spots remain.
TEN TO GO: Harvick had Kyle Busch in his rearview mirror as they both come up on lap traffic. Try as he might, Busch could not catch him, and Harvick would win the Bass Pro Shops Night Race.
STAGE 1-2 TOP 10 FINISHERS – LAPS 125 / 250
1 – Elliott, Ky Busch, Harvick, Bowman, Bell, Ku Busch, Keselowski, Byron, Logano, Wallace
2 – Ky Busch, Kevin Harvick, Elliott, Logano, Kurt Busch, Bowman, Almirola, Bowyer, Erik Jones, Austin Dillon
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