Blaney, Cindric face early trouble, possible playoff elimination at Bristol

Team Penske teammates Austin Cindric and Ryan Blaney suffered flat right-front tires early in Saturday night’s Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, causing serious concerns for their playoff hopes.

MORE: Unofficial results | At-track photos

Ultimately, the duo advanced to the Round of 12, escaping the opening round of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. But their chances faced legitimate threats before the race had reached Lap 100 of 500.

Blaney suffered the heaviest damage after his tire went flat at Lap 92, sending the No. 12 Ford hard into the outside wall. The team attempted to fix the subsequent suspension damage — and lost a left-rear wheel following the crew’s first crack at fixing Blaney’s car — but their tries were to no avail. Blaney slowed to a relative crawl around the half-mile bullring and was forced to pit numerous times.

Blaney went behind the wall after meeting minimum speed and ended the night in 30th place, 162 laps down.

Just seven laps prior to Blaney’s issues, his rookie Team Penske teammate Cindric also suffered a flat right-front tire. The No. 2 Ford contacted the outside wall in Turn 2 but was able to continue after a green-flag pit stop. However, the Daytona 500 winner was left multiple laps down throughout the event.

As other drivers was ousted, Cindric clawed up the running order and eventually finished 20th, seven laps down. He claimed the final available spot in the Round of 12 by two points over both Tyler Reddick and Kyle Busch.