NASCAR Barometer: Harvick Holds Off Busch for Bristol Win

NASCAR Barometer: Harvick Holds Off Busch for Bristol Win

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

Kevin Harvick won his second race of the round of 16 in a Saturday night showdown with Kyle Busch. The win was his ninth of the season, which gives him a 19-point playoff advantage over Denny Hamlin as the next three-race round of championship eliminations approaches. Harvick came to the front in the final stage Saturday night, passing Kyle Busch on track for the lead in a race with very few cautions. The lack of cautions benefitted the pair, who had quick machines all night, denying other cars the opportunity to make adjustments to catch them. In the end, it was a bigger advantage for Harvick, who held a narrow speed advantage over Busch and held him off at the line.

This week's race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway kicks off the next round in the playoffs. The 12-man field will be cut by a further four drivers in a three-race round that holds a visit to Talladega and finishes on the Charlotte road course. Matt DiBenedetto, William Byron, Cole Custer, and Ryan Blaney all failed to advance from the first round. The remaining 12 contenders' point totals will reset, which puts Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, and Aric Almirola behind the cut line as the round gets underway at Las Vegas. Joey Logano won his first race of the year there earlier this season.

UPGRADE

Kevin Harvick – Harvick's terrific 2020 season momentum continued Saturday night in Bristol. The Stewart-Haas Racing

Kevin Harvick won his second race of the round of 16 in a Saturday night showdown with Kyle Busch. The win was his ninth of the season, which gives him a 19-point playoff advantage over Denny Hamlin as the next three-race round of championship eliminations approaches. Harvick came to the front in the final stage Saturday night, passing Kyle Busch on track for the lead in a race with very few cautions. The lack of cautions benefitted the pair, who had quick machines all night, denying other cars the opportunity to make adjustments to catch them. In the end, it was a bigger advantage for Harvick, who held a narrow speed advantage over Busch and held him off at the line.

This week's race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway kicks off the next round in the playoffs. The 12-man field will be cut by a further four drivers in a three-race round that holds a visit to Talladega and finishes on the Charlotte road course. Matt DiBenedetto, William Byron, Cole Custer, and Ryan Blaney all failed to advance from the first round. The remaining 12 contenders' point totals will reset, which puts Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, and Aric Almirola behind the cut line as the round gets underway at Las Vegas. Joey Logano won his first race of the year there earlier this season.

UPGRADE

Kevin Harvick – Harvick's terrific 2020 season momentum continued Saturday night in Bristol. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver was already assured of making it through to the round of 12, but Harvick nonetheless had the speed to contend and take the win. In the final stage of the 500-lap race he was the only driver in the same league as Kyle Busch and took command of the race with a green-flag pass as the pair battled for supremacy. While Harvick's playoff points advantage puts him in a good position to advance to the round of eight, he still wants to maintain his current form. He has two Las Vegas wins in his career and led 82 laps there earlier this season in an eighth-place finish.

Chase Elliott – Elliott won the first and second stages at Bristol earlier this season. He continued that streak and won the first stage Saturday night, too. He slipped a bit during the final stints but had enough to hang on to score his 11th top-10 finish of the season and comfortably advance into the round of 12. His focus now is firmly on working his way to Phoenix still eligible to win the title. He sits just one point outside of the top four when the points reset for the next round of elimination races. Elliott has three top-10s and three crashes in seven career starts at Las Vegas. He led 70 laps there earlier this season after starting 10th. He and his team are finding the form they need to keep their championship fight alive.

Erik Jones – Jones has been pretty quiet since learning that he would not be returning to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2021. He missed the playoffs and has been on a string of mediocre to disappointing finishes since. Saturday night was different at Bristol, however. Jones had a consistent and quick night. He spent most of the race running in the top 10 and found his way into the top five in the final miles. Jones has just a handful of races remaining to prove to team owners that he should be part of their future plans. At Las Vegas, he has just one top-10 finish. He started 16th and finished 23rd there earlier this year. His third-place finish at Bristol is his second top-five finish in the last five races. Adding more consistency to those results should be enough to find him a future home.

Kyle Busch – Busch's night at Bristol started poorly after the car failed prerace inspection twice and the team lost its starting position as a result. By the end of the first stage, Busch had stormed through the field to finish second behind Chase Elliott for the segment win, however. He got off of pit road first after that sequence of stops, which put him in position to dominate the second stage for that win. Through the remainder of the race, it was a battle between Harvick and him, and it was Harvick who had just a small edge on the No. 18 to deny him his first win of the season at least one more week. Busch sounded utterly defeated after Saturday's race when he said he expects to be eliminated from the playoffs in the next round.

DOWNGRADE

Matt DiBenedetto – DiBenedetto came into Saturday night's race at Bristol in a very precarious position in the standings and needed to collect every point possible to have a hope of staying in the championship battle. He missed stage points in the first segment and then lost multiple laps in the second due to a loose wheel that forced him to pit road unexpectedly. He impressively finished second at Las Vegas earlier this season, which is the type of performance that got him into the initial round of 16. DiBenedetto may be out of the playoffs, but he also does not have a confirmed drive for 2021. The remaining races of the season will focus on securing his future.

William Byron – Byron just had to have a decent night at Bristol in order to make it through to the next round of playoffs. He was doing everything he needed to as well. He was the only bubble driver to score stage points in the first segment and was running in the top 10 when contact punctured the radiator and put him completely out of the race in an instant. Byron won to gain entry into the playoffs but couldn't successfully navigate his way through the first round. Fantasy players will be anxious to see how he responds in the final races of the season. His first chance to prove he should still be in the fight comes this week at Las Vegas where he has just one top-10 finish from five tries.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Short tracks are a type of circuit Stenhouse can punch above his weight. Typically fantasy players could expect a top-15 or even top-10 finish from him at places like Bristol but early contact took him out of the race completely Saturday night. While racing, Jimmie Johnson moved down on Stenhouse, which sent the JTG Daugherty Racing driver sliding nose first into the inside wall and out of the race. The last-place finish was the third finish worse than the top 30 in the last five races. Chances for Stenhouse to find success are running out. Stenhouse does have two top-10 finishes in the last three Las Vegas races, but his average finish is 19.8 from 10 career tries. Fantasy players may have more confidence choosing him at Talladega.

Ryan Blaney – Despite having one of the fastest cars in the garage throughout most of the 2020 season Blaney now finds himself on the outside of the championship fight looking in. The Penske Racing driver was easily one of the fastest early in the season but never had the breaks that would allow him to capitalize on that strength. That theme carried right into the round of 16 as the first two races of the round were dismal disappointments, putting him in a hole he was unable to escape from in Bristol. Blaney's 13th-place finish Saturday night is representative of an effort that just didn't deliver what it needed to to send him further into the playoffs. Fantasy players will want to see his results now that the championship pressure is gone, though.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Tyler Reddick – For the second week in a row Reddick stepped forward to show what he might be capable of accomplishing as his career grows. The Richard Childress Racing driver kept his car well inside the top 10 throughout the long night in another impressive race from the rookie that earned him his third-top-five finish of the year. Reddick only has the one series start at Las Vegas from earlier this year. He started that race 25th and finished 18th, but fantasy owners should be more interested in what he might be able to deliver in the future. This is just his first season in the series and as RCR continues to improve their program fantasy players should expect Reddick to grow into a playoff contender in short order.

Want to Read More?
Subscribe to RotoWire to see the full article.

We reserve some of our best content for our paid subscribers. Plus, if you choose to subscribe you can discuss this article with the author and the rest of the RotoWire community.

Get Instant Access To This Article Get Access To This Article
RotoWire Community
Join Our Subscriber-Only NASCAR Chat
Chat with our writers and other RotoWire NASCAR fans for all the pre-game info and in-game banter.
Join The Discussion
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C.J. Radune
Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2012 and 2015.
Formula 1 DFS Picks and Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Formula 1 DFS Picks and Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
NASCAR Barometer:  Ross Chastain Wins the Battle, Ryan Blaney Wins the War
NASCAR Barometer: Ross Chastain Wins the Battle, Ryan Blaney Wins the War
NASCAR DFS:  NASCAR Cup Series Championship
NASCAR DFS: NASCAR Cup Series Championship
NASCAR Xfinity DFS: Xfinity Series Championship
NASCAR Xfinity DFS: Xfinity Series Championship