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Playoff Cut-Line: Which Drivers are in Trouble Heading Into Bristol?

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Following the Kansas race, the Playoff cut-line shifted immensely with multiple Playoff drivers having major trouble. Which drivers are safe, and which ones are not heading into the first cut-off race at Bristol this Saturday night?

Locked In: Kyle Larson and Tyler Reddick

By virtue of their wins at Darlington and Kansas, both Kyle Larson and Tyler Reddick have locked themselves into the Round of 12. Despite that, they still have something to race for at Bristol as they can still earn Playoff points by winning stages and the race on Saturday night.

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Pretty Safe: Denny Hamlin (+49) and William Byron (+41)

While not mathematically locked into the Round of 12, both of these drivers should make it provided they keep their noses clean on Saturday night. In order to get knocked out, they would need to basically crash out and have the other drivers between them and the cut-line stay out of trouble. That is a lot to ask for, especially at a track like Bristol.

Stay Out of Trouble: Brad Keselowski (+33), Ryan Blaney (+25), Kyle Busch (+24)

All three of these drivers have some solid points cushions heading into Bristol, but they are by no means insurmountable cushions. If any of these drivers find themselves in trouble, especially early, they will be in big trouble. However, some stage points would help them, and, as long as they stay out of trouble, the amount of drivers between them and the cut-line in the standings should get these drivers into the Playoffs without too much trouble.

No Room for Error: Ross Chastain (+18), Chris Buescher (+13), Christopher Bell (+13), Joey Logano (+12), and Kevin Harvick (+7)

These drivers have the advantage of being in the Playoffs as of right now, but one mistake on Saturday could knock them out. The points standings are so tight near the back end of the Playoffs that any mistake will hurt, and that cushion you enjoyed will be wiped away. Even simply rolling into Bristol and slightly missing the setup could make for trouble on Saturday night if the wrong drivers earn stage points.

A surprise winner also moved the cut-line up one driver. Therefore, whoever is in 12th is not totally safe, and that drops Chastain, Buescher, and Bell’s cushion over the cut-line by seven points. This battle may be the one to watch on Saturday night.

Must Win?: Martin Truex Jr. (-7), Bubba Wallace (-19), Ricky Stenhouse Jr (-22)

These three drivers currently sit outside of the Round of 12, but, pointing their way in is not out of the question. If some drivers in front of them have trouble, and these three keep their noses clean, they could sneak their way in on points. However, the easiest way to control your own destiny is to win.

A win locks you into the next round no matter what, and that means these drivers might as well approach this weekend as a “Must-Win”. If the points avenue opens up throughout the night, they can flip to that strategy, but for now, they should approach this as a win-or-go-home.

Absolute Must-Win: Michael McDowell (-40)

With a 40-point deficit and three other drivers in front of him, Michael McDowell has to win on Sunday. Winning both stages and the race on Sunday is the only realistic way he can make up a 40-point deficit anyway, so, there really is no other option. It is all about the checkered flag for McDowell on Sunday.

The Round of 12 will be fully set on Saturday night, and that should make for a very intriguing race. Will there be a surprise winner to flip the Playoff field upside down, or, will a favorite cruise home to a Round of 12 berth?

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