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September 14, 2023

Bristol playoff race 101: Round of 16 update, trends to watch, how to follow action

It’s time to shrink the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs field from 16 to 12 drivers Saturday night as the circuit shifts to the highly anticipated Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway (6:30 ET, USA, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, NBC Sports App).

There are some surprises in the playoff standings after Kansas Speedway once again created drama for the title hopefuls. Before an action-packed weekend on “The World’s Fastest Half-Mile,” prepare for Bristol with an outlook on the Round of 16, trends to watch and interactive ways to follow all the action.

RELATED: See paint schemes for Bristol | Betting favorites for Saturday’s Cup race


The playoffs always deliver drama, but no one could’ve seen regular-season champion Martin Truex Jr. below the Round of 12 elimination line entering Bristol. A flat tire just four laps into last Sunday’s race puts Truex in a bind as he’ll have to outperform how he usually does at the Tennessee short track. His last top-five finish at Bristol came all the way back in the spring of 2012.

Two other past champions are anything but safe from elimination. Joey Logano (+12) and Kevin Harvick (+7) are currently the last two drivers into the Round of 12 heading to Bristol. Harvick, the first titleholder in the playoff-elimination era, has been outstanding at Bristol in the last three trips to the track with a win (2020), runner-up finish (2021) and top-10 result (2022). On the other hand, Logano hasn’t scored a top-10 finish at Bristol since 2019.


— Ford drivers won three of the last four at Bristol, all three from different organizations.

— The last five Bristol races were won by drivers from different organizations.

— The race winner started 19th or worse in four of the last five short-track races.

— The last seven Bristol races were won by seven different drivers.

(Via Racing Insights)


1999: Dale Earnhardt rattles Terry Labonte’s cage | WATCH

2002: Tempers flare throughout race; Jeff Gordon pulls bump-and-run on Rusty Wallace to score win | WATCH

2012: Stewart, Kenseth wreck while racing for the lead; Stewart slings helmet | WATCH

2021: Larson wins thriller as Elliott, Harvick exchange heated words on pit road | WATCH


Friday, September 15

— 4:35 p.m. ET: Practice (USA, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, NBC Sports App)

— 5:20 p.m. ET: Qualifying (USA, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, NBC Sports App)

Saturday, September 16

— 7:30 p.m. ET: Bass Pro Shops Night Race (USA, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, NBC Sports App)

MORE: Full weekend schedule at Bristol


The GEICO Restart Zone returned to its 2022 dimensions after being extended for this season’s first five races.

After a tire test at Bristol in June, Goodyear brings a new right-side tire for Saturday night’s race that is designed to wear more to promote passing throughout the field. Cup teams will be issued one set of tires for practice, one set for qualifying and an additional 10 sets for the race.

NASCAR implemented safety updates to the Next Gen car.

Along the right-side door bars and extending toward the rear clip, teams are mandated to run a steel plate in addition to the chassis adjustments made for the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The right-side door bar gussets and the removal of the front clip V-brace are changes that remain, in addition to the removal of other front-clip components, to create a softer and larger crush zone for frontal impacts.

Also included in the updates are front bumper strut softening (modifications to existing parts), the requirement of an empty front ballast box and a modified cross brace. NASCAR incurs the cost of all these updates.

In the event of a lost wheel that is contained to pit road, the offending team will be subject to a pass-through penalty under green-flag conditions. If the infraction occurs during a caution period, the offending team will restart at the tail end of the field.

If the wheel breaks free outside of pit road, the new rules guidelines mandate a two-lap penalty plus a two-race suspension for two crew members. Each penalty is series-specific: Violations in one series will not impact those crew members’ eligibility to participate in other series.

RELATED: See rules changes for 2023


Fans can get in on the action all season long with NASCAR Fan Rewards, a free program that rewards fans for participating in the action when they watch races and play NASCAR Fantasy.

There’s no cost to join. Fans must be 18 years or older to participate in the program.

Earn points by checking into a race from home or at the track, setting your Fantasy Live lineup, making purchases on the shop and more. Points can be redeemed for race tickets, merchandise and VIP experiences at the track, including pace car rides and waving the green flag at qualifying.



NASCAR Mobile has now added support for fans to “Follow the Race” and access live leaderboard and race information from Live Activities in the current app release (v13.2.0), available now. Android users, we didn’t forget you — the same functionality has been custom-built for Android devices, as well.

How to access Live Activities on iPhones:

  1. Make sure your iOS device has been updated to 16.1 or higher.
  2. Available on the leaderboard of all NASCAR Series races.
  3. Click on the three-dot menu near the top right of screen.
  4. Select “Follow the Race.”
  5. Swipe up to access the home screen and you will see the Live Activities at the top.
  6. Lock the device and you will see Live Activities on the Lock Screen.
  7. To turn off, simply visit the leaderboard, click the three-dot menu and “Unfollow the Race.”


Want to manage a team and race your way to the top of the leaderboards? Check out NASCAR Fantasy Live, which resets for the playoffs. The free-to-play game lets you choose your drivers each week and show off your crew-chief instincts by garaging a driver by the end of Stage 2, and there is a $10,000 prize for the winner.

How to play: Fantasy Live | Set up a team today!


During the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, fans have the opportunity to compete in The Playoffs Grid™ Challenge presented by Ruoff Mortage. Fans can enter by visiting The Playoffs Grid™ Challenge page beginning Tuesday, Aug. 29 and registering for a free account before filling out a bracket. From there, choose from a list of playoff-eligible drivers round by round, and you’re on your way to compete for prizes!

How to play: Playoffs Grid Challenge | Set your grid today!


Get additional camera views by logging on to NASCAR Drive, where each week a select number of in-car cameras will be available — as well as a battle cam and an overhead look.

NASCAR has partnered with LiveLike to add fan engagement to the NASCAR Mobile App. Log in to the mobile app during the race for polls, quizzes, the cheer meter and more — and see instant results from NASCAR fans like you.