Despite a surging push from Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick would hold off the reigning Cup champion to win at Bristol Motor Speedway Saturday evening.
The win is Harvick’s ninth of the season and his second during the postseason (Darlington). The win is also Harvick’s first at Bristol since Aug. 21, 2016.
Brad Keselowski would lead through the first 18 laps of the race until Harvick would overtake him on the inside line through the final two turns of the lap. Harvick would utilize lap traffic to maintain the lead through the Ricky Stenhouse Jr. caution on lap 29.
After taking two tires during the competition caution, Matt DiBenedetto would lead the field at the restart on lap 41. Keselowski, however, would reclaim the lead on lap 43 after running on the outside lane.
Chase Elliott, after overtaking DiBenedetto for second, would continue to gain speed and take over the lead on lap 107 after drafting off the inside. Although Elliott would get caught in traffic and receive contact up front, the 24-year-old would maintain the lead over a resurgent Busch and collect the stage one win. It would be Elliott’s seventh stage win of the season and his third at Bristol.
Busch would lead the pack to begin stage two after a poor launch by Elliott. The speed for Busch in stage one would continue through stage two even after going from worst to first, as the No. 18 Toyota would vault ahead to a second-plus lead over the field. The field would pack back together on lap 232, though, as William Byron would make contact with Joey Gase and be forced to the garage. The finish for Byron would eliminate him from the cutline heading into the Round of 12.
Busch would rocket forward on the lap 242 restart to maintain the top position. A turn two caution by Ryan Newman would end the stage under yellow and see Busch pick up his second stage win of the season.
Busch would yet again shoot ahead to start the final stage. Harvick, however, would find the lead once more on lap 281. After Harvick would rocket ahead to a six-plus second lead over the rest of the field, a caution between Austin Dillon, James Davison and Reed Sorenson would snap the 100-plus lap stretch without a yellow flag.
Harvick would win the race off of pit road and lead the five remaining cars on the lead lap at the restart with 82 to go. Busch would press ahead to take the lead from Harvick, but the latter would maintain the top line and get key blocks over the latter. Busch, however, would keep the speed and capitalize on lap traffic to eventually retake the lead with 40 to go.
Harvick would not go away quietly, as he would again take the lead with 31 to go. Despite a late push by Busch, Harvick would maintain enough speed and block just enough to pick up the victory.
Busch would finish second. The finish is Busch’s 12th top-five finish of the season.
Erik Jones would finish third. In eight career Cup Series starts at Bristol, the finish would be Jones’s fourth inside the top five.
With the conclusion of the Round of 16, Ryan Blaney, Byron, Cole Custer and DiBenedetto are officially eliminated from postseason play. Among the quartet, Blaney would finish the highest (13th). DiBenedetto would finish 19th, while Custer and Byron would finish 23rd and 38th, respectively.
The Round of 12 will officially begin at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Sep. 27. Coverage will begin on NBC Sports Network at 7:00 p.m. EST.
Advancing to the Round of 12:
- Kevin Harvick
- Denny Hamlin
- Brad Keselowski
- Joey Logano
- Chase Elliott
- Martin Truex Jr.
- Alex Bowman
- Austin Dillon
- Aric Almirola
- Kyle Busch
- Clint Bowyer
- Kurt Busch