Odd-Ball 2022 Season Continues At Bristol Night Race

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, September 18 2022

Kyle Busch walks out of the Playoffs after his car blew and engine at Bristol on Saturday night. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

By Deb Williams | Senor Writer

BRISTOL, Tenn. – Parity and unpredictability, trademarks of the 2022 NASCAR Cup season continued at Bristol Motor Speedway Saturday night as Chris Buescher became the 19th different winner this season and two Cup champions failed to advance to the Round of 12 in the playoffs.

Two-time Cup champion Kyle Busch found himself sidelined from the title hunt due to a blown engine, his second in the last three races. It marked the first time Busch has failed to advance to the second round since this format was instituted in 2014.  

“This sort of goes with our year,” Busch said. “I don’t even know what to say. I’m flabbergasted. We’re too good of a group to be this low on the bottom and fighting for our lives to make it through, but two engine failures in three weeks will do it to you. It’s not our normal.” 

 Kevin Harvick finished 10th in the Bass Pro Shops Night Race, but the Stewart-Haas Racing driver needed to win to advance due to problems in the first two playoff races. Harvick appeared poised to possibly win the Bristol event on the tough half-mile track, running in the top five with slightly more than 60 laps remaining. However, when he pitted during the 11th and final caution period on lap 438, the left-front wheel on his Ford fell off as he started to exit his pit. He had to back up to get a new wheel attached and that left him 10th on the restart, a deficit he couldn’t overcome in the closing laps.

“The luck has just been terrible (this year). It’s been one thing after another,” Harvick said. “It sucks not being in control. With all of the trouble everybody had tonight all you needed to do was ride around.”

  Joining Busch and Harvick on the playoff sidelines are Richard Childress Racing drivers Tyler Reddick and Austin Dillon. Both were involved in a 12-car accident on the backstretch and finished 25th and 31st, respectively. 

With non-playoff drivers winning at Darlington, Kansas and Bristol, it meant those advancing to the Round of 12 had to accomplish the feat on points for the first time ever. A few of the drivers fluctuated in-and-out of the standings due to various issues. 

Austin Cindric, the first rookie to advance into the second round since Chase Elliott in 2016, had an issue with right-front tires throughout the evening. His crew didn’t tell him the point situation until the final stage when it appeared he had a chance of advancing into the playoffs’ second round. 

“I was about 16 (points) out at the beginning of Stage 3,” Cindric said. “Then we were five out, four out, tied with the 18 (Busch). The fact that we finished 20th certainly shows the attrition. 

“Just a perfect storm in some ways. Bristol showed us some mercy tonight. Not a very impressive night for Team Penske. I’m just glad all three of us made it through to the next round.” 

  While most of the attention in Saturday night’s race focused on the playoff contenders, RFK Racing demonstrated its renewed strength with Buescher and team co-owner/driver Brad Keselowski leading a total of 278 of the race’s 500 laps. 

“This is a legacy type of win,” Keselowski said. “There’s some tracks that winning at is always great. Don’t get me wrong, but there’s some tracks that winning at is just not as special as others, and Bristol is right up there at the top of being special. (It’s a) big moment for us.”

Buescher’s second career Cup victory came 223 races, 2,238 days after he scored his inaugural win at Pocono in August 2016. It also came in a season where he’s been upside down after barrel rolling at Charlotte and dealing with a car fire at Indianapolis. 

“We’ve had some really close ones this year,” said Buescher, who finished 0.458 second ahead of Chase Elliott. “The progress and the speed has been there at a lot of places. We’ve come back on Monday and been happy for a lot of reasons and really upset on some missed opportunities or some small things that we felt like could have completely changed some of our days or some big things like catching on fire at Indy.

“There’s been a lot of moments through the summer, really through the season, that we could add up and say we’ve been sneaking up on this. So, it was nice to put it together.

“You know, I think about the Pocono win, and that one was special, but this has been the one I would take over any other race, whether it’s the 500, the Coke 600. This is the one I’ve wanted forever.”

Next weekend’s race at Texas Motor Speedway kicks off the playoffs’ second round with Elliott once again leading the standings since the points have been reset. Joining him in the Round of 12, respectively, are Joey Logano, Ross Chastain, Kyle Larson, William Byron, Denny Hamlin, Christopher Bell, Ryan Blaney, Chase Briscoe, Alex Bowman, Daniel Suarez, and Cindric. 


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, September 18 2022
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