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September 15, 2023

Bristol live blog: All the updates from the Round of 16 elimination race


We’re bringing you live updates covering Saturday night’s NASCAR Cup Series race from Bristol Motor Speedway, the Bass Pro Shops Night Race (6:30 p.m. ET, USA Network, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, NBC Sports App). Bookmark this page and check back often as we chronicle the action from ‘The Last Great Colosseum.’


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What to Watch: Playoff drivers looking to keep title hopes alive at Bristol What to Watch: Playoff drivers looking to keep title hopes alive at Bristol
  • Iconic NASCAR short track Bristol Motor Speedway hosts the 500-lap Round of 16 playoff elimination race Saturday night.
  • Among the 16 playoff contenders, four drivers will leave Bristol eliminated from the championship fight. And, considering Bristol is famously known for its full-contact short-track racing action, expect some flared tempers and hurt feelings. Bristol, baby!
  • By virtue of their Round of 16 race wins, Kyle Larson (Darlington) and Tyler Reddick (Kansas) are safe from elimination; the other 14 drivers will battle for the remaining 10 available spots. See our guide to clinch scenarios-or, to consider things more simply, winning the race would automatically advance a playoff driver to the next round, regardless of points. Just win at Bristol … easy enough, right?
  • This weekend marks the Cup Series’ lone stop on Bristol’s traditional concrete surface in 2023. Back in April, dirt-racing expert Christopher Bell won on the track’s dirt-covered surface; shortly afterward, cleanup began to return the track to its usual non-dirt format-the one that’ll set the Round of 12 Saturday.

Links to keep handy:

If it helps to get you in the mood, you can check out past Bristol races ad-free on NASCAR Classics.

All times listed are Eastern.

Saturday, September 16

10:45 p.m.: That’ll do it for our live blog this evening. Up next? Texas Motor Speedway kicks off the Round of 12 next Sunday (3:30 p.m., USA Network). Expect playoff drivers to bring their A-game in order to avoid the treachery of Talladega and the Charlotte Roval lying ahead.

10:38 p.m.: Eliminated, but he’s still got time for the fans.

10:35 p.m.: Seems Michael Jordan is pleased with the No. 23 advancing in the playoffs.

10:30 p.m.: Mind the fence, DH!

Denny Hamlin's car taps a fence on the way to Bristol Victory Lane

10:27 p.m.: How about some strong runs from non-playoff drivers? Ty Gibbs picks up a career-best-tying fifth-place finish. Carson Hocevar came home 11th, his career-best result and the best finish for the No. 42 car in 2023. Ryan Preece finished 12th for his second-best run of the year.

10:23 p.m.: Your Round of 12: William Byron, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson, Chris Buescher, Kyle Busch, Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick, Ross Chastain, Brad Keselowski, Ryan Blaney and Bubba Wallace.

10:19 p.m., checkered flag: Denny Hamlin’s out of the car after performing some smoky burnouts. “I beat your favorite driver,” he says to a crowd of mixed cheers and boos in his victory interview with NBC Sports.

10:18 p.m., checkered flag: Eliminated Ricky Stenhouse Jr. congratulates Bubba Wallace on advancing.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. speaks to Bubba Wallace

10:17 p.m., checkered flag: Martin Truex Jr. and Bubba Wallace narrowly advance to the Round of 12, which consists of Texas, Talladega, and the Charlotte Roval.

10:14 p.m., checkered flag: The playoffs are over for Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Michael McDowell, despite top-10 finishes tonight for the latter two. For Logano, a defending champ has never been eliminated in the Round of 16 until now.

10:13 p.m., Lap 500: Denny Hamlin has won the Bass Pro Shops Night Race, his 51st career victory. It’s his third win of 2023.

10:10 p.m., Lap 490: Just 10 laps to go for Denny Hamlin. He’s got a nearly two-second lead over Kyle Larson.

10:08 p.m., Lap 480: I think regardless of who wins tonight, it’s a win for the Vortex Theory. The cars definitely kept those raindrops away from the track this time. Science, baby!

10:07 p.m., Lap 475: With 25 laps to go, here’s the bubble picture. Time is running out.

9. Blaney: +26
10. Chastain: +22
11. Truex Jr.: +5
12. Wallace: +4
– Top 12 advance –
13. Logano -4
14. Harvick: -4
15. Stenhouse Jr.: -8
16. McDowell: -15

10:03 p.m., Lap 463: Denny Hamlin has lapped up to 13th place. Playoff drivers off the lead lap include Bubba Wallace (-1), Tyler Reddick (-1), Martin Truex Jr. (-2), Kyle Busch (-2), Ryan Blaney (-2), Ross Chastain (-3), Kevin Harvick (-5), Joey Logano (out).

9:57 p.m., Lap 442: It’s still Denny’s show.

Denny Hamlin leads the field at Bristol Motor Speedway
Alejandro Alvarez | NASCAR Studios

9:49 p.m., Lap 410: Now within the final 100 laps in the Round of 16, Christopher Bell and Brad Keselowski have clinched spots in the Round of 12. Regardless of what happens for the rest of the night, they’re safe. They join Denny Hamlin, William Byron, Kyle Larson and Tyler Reddick.

9:45 p.m., Lap 395: Leader Denny Hamlin has reached quite a milestone: he’s now led 14,000 laps in his Cup Series career. That’s a lot of time spent out front.

9:41 p.m., Lap 379: It must be agonizing out there for Michael McDowell; he’s run in the top 10 most of the race-a more than solid night-but he’s still stuck double-digit points on the wrong side of the playoff bubble. He’ll almost certainly need to make his way from sixth to win in order to keep the underdog’s championship hopes alive.

9:37 p.m., Lap 368: Following a round of pit stops under caution, Denny Hamlin’s back up front with Kyle Larson. Ty Gibbs has fallen to fifth. Keep an eye on Chris Buescher restarting on the second row; remember, he’s the defending race winner and he’s visited Victory Lane three times this season.

9:32 p.m., Lap 361: Caution No. 6. Just after going a lap down, Martin Truex Jr. gets out of shape and tags the wall. That’ll cost him the free pass and there’s a bit of damage to the right-rear of his Toyota. Remember, MTJ needs a good run after poor runs at Darlington and Kansas.

9:32 p.m., Lap 360: Denny Hamlin and Ty Gibbs have been swapping the lead back and forth as the duo approaches their teammate Martin Truex Jr. to put the No. 19 a lap down.

9:29 p.m., Lap 350: Heading into tonight’s event, Ty Gibbs had led a total of 12 laps in his young NASCAR Cup Series career. So far in this race alone, he’s led 95 laps and counting.

9:25 p.m., Lap 335: Erik Jones has fallen from 12th on the restart to 29th and seems to be battling an issue with his No. 43 car.

9:24 p.m., Lap 332: You’re missing out if you’re not following along with live in-car cameras from NASCAR Drive. Here’s what Bubba Wallace is seeing out his window as he’s fighting to secure a spot in the Round of 12.

View from the windshield of Bubba Wallace

9:16 p.m., Lap 305: Ty Gibbs is still getting it done up front as he puts Ryan Blaney a lap down in 24th. It’s not a great night for Team Penske, but Blaney’s got a halfway-decent points cushion that should get him through Bristol barring a major issue in the next 200 laps.

9:12 p.m., Lap 288: We’ve reached that gritty part of the race. Bumpers, tempers, scrapes … that typical Bristol stuff. It doesn’t get any less frantic from here, folks, so buckle up.

9:08 p.m., Lap 272: We’re back to green with Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Ty Gibbs and Denny Hamlin up front.

9:03 p.m., Lap 266: It’s terminal for the No. 22. Joey Logano has driven his heavily-damaged Ford behind the wall, and he’s done for the night. He’ll need a miracle to defend his title.

Joey Logano pulls his damaged car behind the wall at Bristol Motor Speedway
Alejandro Alvarez | NASCAR Studios

9:01 p.m., Lap 262: Caution No. 5. Corey LaJoie goes for a spin and slides back up the track into Ryan Newman, Justin Haley, Ty Dillon and Joey Logano. This could have serious playoff implications for Logano.

8:59 p.m., Lap 261: Let’s take inventory of the current playoff picture before we begin the final stage, shall we?

9. Busch: +23
10. Chastain: +19
11. Logano: +7
12. Truex Jr.: +4
– Top 12 advance –
13. Wallace -4
14. Stenhouse Jr.: -8
15. Harvick: -8
16. McDowell: -17

8:58 p.m., Lap 259: Good news if you’re a fan of Denny Hamlin or William Byron: with Stage 2 points awarded, they’ve officially advanced to the Round of 12, regardless of finishing position tonight. That’s a nice sigh of relief for those two.

8:55 p.m., Lap 256: Ty Gibbs will pick up the lead after a lightning-fast stop by the No. 54 team.

8:51 p.m., Lap 251: Caution No. 4. Christopher Bell picks up the Stage 2 win. Kyle Busch fought tooth and nail to stay on the lead lap, and he’ll look to dig out of his current 23rd-place running position in the second half of the race.

8:44 p.m., Lap 225: How about Carson Hocevar? Bristol’s a tough, tough place, and the 20-year-old runs seventh in just his fourth Cup Series start. He’s punching well above his weight in the Legacy Motor Club No. 42; he just passed William Byron, who’s won five races this year.

8:42 p.m., Lap 220: Don’t forget to adjust your Fantasy Live garage picks if you need.

8:38 p.m., Lap 202: Christopher Bell has made his way back to the point with laps winding down in Stage 2. The No. 20 is going for all of the points tonight.

Christopher Bell leads Kyle Larson at Bristol
Alejandro Alvarez | NASCAR Studios

8:37 p.m., Lap 200: The playoff bubble battle is wild right now. With low-ranked drivers running well (McDowell in fourth and Stenhouse in 11th) and higher-ranked drivers running poorly (like Harvick in 32nd), nobody’s safe … and nobody’s out of it yet.

8:32 p.m., Lap 178: From the top groove of the track to the top of the leaderboard, Kyle Larson takes over the top spot from C-Bell. Larson’s already locked into the Round of 12 due to his win at Darlington earlier this month.

8:29 p.m., Lap 172: Defending series champ Joey Logano (32nd place) cedes his lead-lap position to Christopher Bell. Up next to lap for Bell? Kevin Harvick and Ross Chastain. Miserable nights for these playoff contenders so far.

8:25 p.m., Lap 155: I know the playoff battle is what everybody’s talking about tonight, but how about Ty Gibbs in second place? The rookie walked out to “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds in driver introductions. Apt!

8:22 p.m., Lap 141: We’re back to green! Welcome to Stage 2. Christopher Bell leads.

8:19 p.m., Lap 138: Cars are again rolling off pit road. Nice work, track-drying team.

8:11 p.m., Lap 137: While we’ve got a moment, let’s take a peek at the current playoff picture after pit stops, shall we?

9. Chastain: +26
10. Busch: +23
11. Harvick: +16
12. Logano: +9
– Top 12 advance –
13. Stenhouse Jr.: -9
14. Truex Jr.: -9
15. Wallace: -11
16. McDowell: -18

8:04 p.m., Lap 137: Cue the sad trombone. A small cell of precipitation has wet the track and forced cars to pit road, and we’re now under a red flag condition. But, never fear; the track-drying crew has already sprung into action.

7:55 p.m., Lap 128: It’s not a fun time if you’re Joey Logano (24th) or Kevin Harvick (29th), two playoff contenders who have their hands full with ill-handling cars. If you’re watching the live standings, you’ll notice these two have fallen below the cut line, while Martin Truex Jr. and Bubba Wallace are back in the top dozen … for now.

7:53 p.m., Lap 125: Caution No. 3. That’ll do it for Stage 1; it’s Christopher Bell’s stage win and playoff point. Corey LaJoie, Bubba Wallace, William Byron, Tyler Reddick, Ross Chastain, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr. and Ty Gibbs join Bell in picking up stage points.

7:51 p.m., Lap 119: Christopher Bell takes over the top spot, and he’s setting his sights on a stage win.

7:50 p.m., Lap 115: Those raindrops didn’t do much, and we’re back to green! Corey LaJoie’s still pacing the field.

7:46 p.m., Lap 109: Among those pitting under the caution is Kevin Harvick, who’s battling a tight car. The No. 4 fell all the way to 28th on the previous run after changing two tires. That won’t cut the Round of 12 mustard, so it’s time for Rodney Childers and team to make some adjustments.

7:43 p.m., Lap 106: Caution No. 2. Apparently, the Vortex Theory can’t stave off all the raindrops.

7:41 p.m., Lap 100: The no-tire call seems to be working out well for Corey LaJoie up front. He’s now led 29 laps. Can he pull off the stage win?

7:35 p.m., Lap 77: Green flag is back in the air. The top six-Corey LaJoie, Bubba Wallace, Ross Chastain, Tyler Reddick, Joey Logano and Todd Gilliland-opted to stay out. It’ll be up to Michael McDowell and Christopher Bell to pick their way through to the front on fresh tires.

7:33 p.m., Lap 75: Busted! Denny Hamlin’s headed to the tail of the field for speeding on pit road under caution. That’s tough to swallow after running second.

7:30 p.m., Lap 70: Caution No. 1. AJ Allmendinger pounded the wall, and Austin Cindric, well, pounded Allmendinger.

7:28 p.m., Lap 65: As we pass the halfway point of Stage 1, how about Michael McDowell? He’s running third-still 10 points below the cut line-but it’s a great start for the No. 34.

7:23 p.m., Lap 50: Denny Hamlin’s following in teammate Christopher Bell’s tracks up front.

Christopher Bell leads Denny Hamlin at Bristol
Alejandro Alvarez | NASCAR Studios

7:18 p.m., Lap 27: It didn’t take long for the leaders to catch lapped traffic, but that’ll happen at a half-mile bullring. Slower cars will cause headaches for the top cars all night long.

7:14 p.m., Lap 15: Before we get too far into this thing, you might want to pull up our live standings to keep an eye on the points situation this evening.

7:11 p.m., Lap 1: Green flag! Christopher Bell brings ’em to the start, just like he’s done for every playoff race this season.

7:09 p.m.: Cars are rolling again! Let’s put Darrell Waltrip’s “Vortex Theory” to the test.

6:58 p.m.: After a few pace laps, the field has pulled onto pit road to wait out some precipitation.

6:45 p.m.: Drivers are seated in their cars. Can you imagine the nerves?

6:25 p.m.: Pre-race ceremonies are underway and it’s just about time to fire up those engines.

6:14 p.m.: You’ve set your Fantasy Live lineups, right? Here’s who I’ve got (Harvick, Byron, Larson, Gibbs, Elliott; Truex in the garage). Promise you won’t poke too much fun if this all goes south, OK? Anything can happen at Bristol.

Steve Luvender Fantasy Live lineup for Bristol: Kevin Harvick, William Byron, Kyle Larson, Ty Gibbs, Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr.

6:00 p.m.: Good evening! It’s almost time to set the Round of 12. Tune in for some short-track action at 6:30 p.m. ET on USA Network, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio or the NBC Sports App. Or tune in on all of them, no judgment here.

Friday, September 15

6:50 p.m.: That’s it for the Cup Series on-track action this evening, but stick around for the Xfinity Series Playoffs opener from Bristol (7:30 p.m. ET, USA). (Dale Jr.’s racing, by the way!)

6:40 p.m.: Some playoff notables will have their work cut out Saturday. Defending race winner Chris Buescher will start 20th, just ahead of Kevin Harvick in 21st. Ross Chastain rolls off 23rd, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will come from 25th, and Joey Logano starts 28th. Kyle Larson, already locked into the Round of 12, qualified last after losing grip on his run.

6:35 p.m: He’s three-for-three! Christopher Bell will start from pole position tomorrow night after setting a quick lap of 15.109 seconds-his third consecutive pole in the third race of this year’s playoffs. That’s never been done before. Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin will start alongside Bell on the front row. Full results

6:15 p.m.: Denny Hamlin leads Group B in qualifying, advancing with Brad Keselowski, William Byron, Michael McDowell and Martin Truex Jr. Time to set fast laps for the pole!

5:55 p.m.: One notable omission from Group A’s top five: Kyle Larson. The No. 5 went for a slide that cost quite a bit of time; that means Larson will start deep in the field tomorrow night.

Kyle Larson slides in qualifying

5:50 p.m.: Christopher Bell, Ty Gibbs, Corey LaJoie, Bubba Wallace and Chase Elliott advance to the final round of qualifying from Group A to run for the pole against Group B’s fast five, on deck now.

5:20 p.m.: Practice is now history. Kyle Larson set the fastest lap overall with a 15.186-second trip around Bristol in Group A. William Byron paced Group B, good enough for eighth overall with a time of 15.390 (full results). On to qualifying!

4:30 p.m.: The lone practice session (4:35 p.m. ET) and qualifying (5:20 p.m. ET) takes place this afternoon. Catch the on-track action on USA Network, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, or the NBC Sports App, and stick around for the Xfinity Series playoffs opener shortly afterward – it’ll be a nice appetizer for tomorrow night’s main course.