Bass Pro Shops Night Race Nascar Cup Series to the regional and local levels, many NASCAR races are staged at night. But just one race has the distinction of being called “The Night Race.”
History of Bass Pro Shops Night Race Nascar Cup Series
In 1978, Bristol Motor Speedway introduced lights for an annual night race in the year’s second half; the race immediately rose to prominence as one of the most infamous in all of stock car racing. For whatever reason, whether it was the bright bulbs flanking the speedway or the phase of the moon in the night sky, the Bristol Night Race featured NASCAR’s roughest competition.
In 1995 and 1999, Dale Earnhardt rattled Terry Labonte’s cage upon crossing the finish line. Jeff Gordon displaces Rusty Wallace with a collision. From Ward Burton (“I wish I had something I could have shot through the windshield!”) to Kevin Harvick (“I’m ready to rip somebody’s f*cking head off!”), there is no shortage of angry and quotable drivers.
Bass Pro Shops Night Race
Now, the Night Race at Bristol serves as the Round of 16 elimination race, a distinction it has held since its relocation from late August to mid-September in 2020. Last year, Kyle Larson seized on an on-track incident between Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott to win the race before Harvick confronted his young adversary.
What to view
The Playoff Perspective:
Since non-playoff drivers have won the first two playoff races — Erik Jones at Darlington and Bubba Wallace at Kansas — very few playoff drivers approach this weekend’s elimination race feeling genuinely safe. Christopher Bell is the only driver now guaranteed a spot in the Round of 12 with 58 points above the cut line.
Theoretically, most drivers with a score greater than 25 points above the threshold should be safe. However, only 13 points separate tenth-place Daniel Suarez and fifteenth-place Chase Briscoe. Currently deadlocked for the final slot in the Round of 12, Tyler Reddick and Austin Cindric hold a two-point advantage over Kyle Busch and a three-point advantage over Austin Dillon.
Kevin Harvick, who is 35 points below the cut line following a fire at Darlington and an accident at Kansas, is the only driver in an absolute must-win scenario. Still, he has been in this position before. In 2015, Harvick responded to a similar situation by winning a playoff elimination race at Dover, allowing him to remain in the playoff hunt and ultimately finish second in the championship standings.
- #20 – Christopher Bell (+58, clinched spot in Round of 12)
- #24 – William Byron (+48)
- #11 – Denny Hamlin (+47)
- #22 – Joey Logano (+40)
- #12 – Ryan Blaney (+36)
- #48 – Alex Bowman (+30)
- #9 – Chase Elliott (+28)
- #5 – Kyle Larson (+27)
- #1 – Ross Chastain (+26)
- #99 – Daniel Suarez (+6)
- #8 – Tyler Reddick (+2)
- #2 – Austin Cindric (R) (+2)
- #18 – Kyle Busch (-2)
- #3 – Austin Dillon (-3)
- #14 – Chase Briscoe (-9)
- #4 – Kevin Harvick (-35)
All About Bass Pro Shops Night Race Nascar Cup Series
- Date: Saturday, Sept. 17
- Location: Bristol Motor Speedway — Bristol, TN
- Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
- TV: USA Network
- Stream: fuboTV
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The pursuit of 19
In addition to its effects on the driver and owner playoff standings, Bubba Wallace’s victory at Kansas gave him the 18th different driver to win one of the season’s 28 races. This offers a scenario in which the 2022 season could tie or break the record for most different winners in a season.
In 2001, between Michael Waltrip’s season-opening victory in the Daytona 500 and Robby Gordon’s season-ending victory at New Hampshire, 19 different drivers visited Victory Lane, setting a modern-era record for most different winners in a season. The 2022 season will tie the record if just one more driver wins a race, and there are still several good contenders with eight races remaining.
As has been the case of all season, Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. appear due for a victory, but neither has ever won at Bristol in their careers. Brad Keselowski has won three races at Bristol, most recently in June of 2020, but has not finished in the top five this season. However, his teammate Chris Buescher was in contention for the victory in the most recent short track race at Richmond and finished fifth at this circuit in 2016.
Consider Ricky Stenhouse Jr. if you want a true sleeper to become the 19th different champion this season. His record in Bristol is exceptional, with three second-place results (twice on asphalt and once on dirt) in addition to five top-five and seven top-ten finishes. In the spring, Stenhouse also finished second on another concrete track at Dover.
Scores to settle
Don’t forget the history of the Bristol Night Race: This is as near as NASCAR gets to a cage match, and Bristol is the perfect spot for feuds between drivers to come to the surface and for racers to exact revenge.
In light of this, it is essential to keep track of who is angry with whom and who should be concerned about a particular vehicle approaching their bumper.
- Ross Chastain has the most significant target on his back based on his season-long performance. At Pocono, Denny Hamlin earned his revenge, but can the same be said of Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon? Where does Martin Truex Jr. fit in? A.J. Allmendinger?
- Daniel Suarez made it quite obvious post-race at Darlington that he would exact revenge on Christopher Bell, and Bell himself confirmed last week that he would have to “mind his back” around Suarez.
- William Byron has yet to exact revenge on Joey Logano for bumping and running him at Darlington in May. Reading between the lines on playoff media day, it appears like Byron has not forgotten or left the past be the past.
When it comes to drivers who have caused them to hit the wall or deprived them of a chance to win, race car drivers are infamously forgetful. It will be fascinating to see who decides to use the chrome horn on the person they’ve been planning to use it against.
Pick to win
(Odds courtesy Caesars Sportsbook)
Kyle Busch (+700): In auto racing, it is commonly believed that “lame duck” drivers cannot win championships. Kyle Busch revealed this week that he will leave Joe Gibbs Racing at the conclusion of the 2022 season and join Richard Childress Racing for 2023 and beyond.
Regardless of the ramifications of Busch’s impending departure on his championship prospects, this weekend represents a great opportunity for him to respond to the events of the previous week. Busch is one of the most significant drivers to ever compete at Bristol, having won nine Cup races there, including the track’s spring dirt event. A victory in the Bristol Night Race would add to Busch’s legacy in the No. 18 and inject his season with the vitality it missed during his contract disagreement and subsequent rumor circus.