Denny Hamlin dominates the NASCAR Cup Series final stage to win the Bristol Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday night.
The elimination race of the NASCAR Cup Series opening Round of 16 took place at Bristol Motor Speedway under the Tennessee night sky. A 500-lap battle around the high-banked, concrete surface was the final test for which 12 drivers will continue in the playoffs.
The Bristol Night Race always has a lot of hype surrounding it, being one of the biggest events each year on the NASCAR schedule. Some drivers excel under this pressure, while others break. That makes this race one of the best cutoff races in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.
Once Again, Christopher Bell Leads the Field to the Green Flag
Christopher Bell had early control of this race. He took the green flag and led the first 69 laps of the race. The first caution came out on lap 70 after AJ Allmendinger and Austin Cindric wrecked each other.
Corey Lajoie stayed off pit road and cycled into the lead on the restart. He led 30 laps after the caution and rain began to fall which brought out another caution. Once the race resumed, Christopher Bell passed Corey Lajoie on the following restart and led the final six laps to win the first stage.
Rain Delays Start of Second Stage
Rain continued to fall which delayed the start of the second stage, but Christopher Bell finally brought the field back to racing. He and Kyle Larson traded the lead early in the segment. Larson made a pass for the lead 40 laps in, and Bell passed him back 20 laps later.
The segment ran caution-free with Christopher Bell leading the final 53 laps to sweep the stages.
Ty Gibbs Leads the Third Stage
Ty Gibbs cycled into the lead to begin the third stage. On the second lap, Corey Lajoie spins from 12th place and collects four other drivers in the wreck. Ty Gibbs led through this caution and for another 90 laps before Denny Hamlin passed him up for the lead.
Five laps later, another caution flag was waved after Martin Truex Jr. spun around. Denny Hamlin stormed on with the lead after the restart.
Denny Hamlin Dominates the NASCAR Cup Series Final Stage to Win Bristol Night Race
Larson tried to make a run from second place but could not find any momentum on Hamlin. After leading the final 130 laps Denny Hamlin wins the Bristol Night Race, finalizing the opening Round of 16 in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.
Four drivers were sent home early after the Round of 16 came to a close. Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Michael McDowell are the ones to leave the playoffs early.
After the first round of the playoffs, the top of the field is starting to differentiate itself from the rest. William Byron and Martin Truex Jr. sit atop the standings with 36 playoff points. Ross Chastain, Brad Keselowski, Ryan Blaney, and Bubba Wallace now sit on the bubble as the Round of 12 begins.
It will be a tough three races for drivers vying to advance into the Round of 8. Texas Motor Speedway will open up the next round, followed by a race at Talladega Superspeedway, and the Charlotte Roval. It will be a high-action, high-anxiety competition for those sitting on the outside of the top eight that will advance.