We’ve come to the end of the Round of 16, two races in the books with Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski punching in on Wins. Others will get in on points, but for those around the bubble, it will be a fierce battle tonight. And what better place to fight to the “death” than the Last Great Colosseum?
Here’s what to look for:
–Brad Keselowski, already mentioned, was our winner earlier this year. And he’ll start 1st by virtue of last week’s Win. Pretty good stuff for him here, but this is a track that he doesn’t have the best numbers at. He got off the schneid in May, and ran 3rd last August, but averages out to 18.1. What does Bad Brad have in store for us tonight?
–Denny Hamlin took the checkers in this race last year, and is actually tied for best average through the last ten races with two other drivers (Jimmie Johnson and Christopher Bell; 9.0). In 2015, 2016, and 2017, he had a streak of three straight 3rd place finishes in the Summer race, broken by a 14th, and followed up with that Win. Can we expect a 3rd or better tonight? Sure, why not.
–Kyle Busch has had a tough go of it this year so far, but would you believe based on that that he has won three of the last six races here? True story! And two of those times when he didn’t win he finished 4th. Rowdy is only 18 points to the good right now, so he can’t just sit back and let things happen. This is a tough one for any driver, we’ll have to see if he can pocket those emotions and do what he know how to do.
–Matt DiBenedetto had such an inspiring run here a few years ago, and he looked to have a handle on the checkers last year at this very race, too. However, he’d be passed with just a few to go by eventual winner Denny Hamlin, and had to settle for 2nd. Probably the worst anyone has ever felt about being runner-up. DiBenedetto still seeks his first career Cup Win tonight.
–Clint Bowyer; I was a bit surprised when it said that he’s never won here. I swear that he had because he usually runs so strong. 2nd in the Spring, and four Top 8s prior to that. He had another 2nd back in 2017. Now, Bowyer is a guy who is by no means safe in this Playoff deal. Can he seal it with a kiss and a Win at Bristol? Stay tuned!
Coverage of the race starts on NBCSN at 7:30pm, green flag scheduled for 7:45pm.