Kyle Bush clinched his spot in the Round of 12, winning the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway. Along with advancing to the next round of the playoffs, Bush also earned a significant career milestone. His win at the Virginia short track gave Bush his 50th win in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Bush led 92 laps, dueling with Las Vegas playoff winner Brad Keselowski in a hard fight for the win that used up the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Bush made the pass for the eventual race win on Lap 364. Fellow championship contender, Kevin Harvick, got around Keselowski for second on Lap 372 of 400, driving hard to reel in Bush, but “The Closer,” as he’s known, ran out of time. Bush was relieved to hold on for the win, with the good in his car getting used up in the battle with Keselowski.
“Yeah, that was a little too close for my comfort,” Busch said. “Hey, I finally won a fall race at Richmond! What do you know?”
Bush and Keselowski have earned Round of 12 playoff spots with their wins entering the Round of 16 Elimination race at the inaugural race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course, known as the “ROVAL.” Martin Truex Jr., thanks to winning both stages at Richmond, has advanced to the next round on points. When Kevin Harvick takes the green flag at the Bank of America Roval 400, he will clinch his place in the second round of the postseason. That leave 12 playoff drivers going for eight spots, ranging from Joey Logano in fifth, 25 points above the 12th place cutoff, all the way down to Denny Hamlin. Hamlin is currently 16th in the playoff standings, 29 points out of a transfer spot in 12th.
With such an unknown going into this weekend at a new circuit, the 12 drivers not locked into the next round of the playoffs can’t take it easy learning the best way around the new course. The Charlotte Road Course is an unknown at this point. We’ll have to wait to see who advances at the end of the race. Guesses can be made, but certainty of who gets to continue their quest for a championship, won’t be known until the checkered flag.
The Track Talk podcast, previewing this “playoff-first” is below.