Can Kyle Bush and Kevin Harvick turn their luck to extend the playoffs?

by Bob Bocras
NASCAR FOX Sports writer

Kansas City, Kan. – two NASCAR Cup Series Champions can only find their Qualifiers in one round.

Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch are not used to being left out early.

Harvick, who has participated in the playoff-style playoffs every year since his debut in 2014, has never failed to make it past the first round. Last year was the first time he failed to get past the second year.

Bush also never failed to get out in the first round. He has missed qualification to the third round (semi-finals) in only two of eight seasons.

But this year, neither drivers have had the season they desire, and both have found themselves in the spotlight due to their frustrations – Bosch over his contract status (he has an announcement set for Tuesday in which he is expected to make his official transition to Richard Childress Racing for next year) and Harvick On what he sees as a lack of urgency from NASCAR when it comes to safety.

Are their classes out of control?

Kevin Harvick talks about what happened in Kansas

Kevin Harvick says the car hit him against the wall. Plus, hear what he has to say about his chances of winning at Bristol.

On Sunday at Kansas Speedway, it looked a bit like that. Harvick was fighting for the position when Bubba Wallace slid in front of him, and Harvick’s car crashed into a wall, ending his day after just 33 laps.

He finished last and now sits 35 points behind the end of the current qualifier, and faces a must-see situation next weekend in Bristol.

How does he rate his chances?

“Better than most,” Harvick said Sunday.

He noted that reaching Kansas 13 points below the cut-off line — the last of 16 drivers in qualifying — put him in a win-win situation.

“That’s what it is,” he said. “We were racing to win anyway… and that’s what we’ll be doing again next week.”

Harvick is basically the only driver in the bubble who is in a must-win position. The rest of the bubble can advance to the next round with points.

The NASCAR split system eliminates the four non-winning drivers with the fewest points in a round of three races. One of the drivers, Christopher Bell, grabbed the points, and eight more will likely lead if they don’t have any problems on Saturday.

The remaining seven are ‘on the bubble’, with Daniel Suarez six points off thirteenth, Tyler Riddick and Austin Sendrich each two points ahead, and Bush 13th two points behind, followed by Austin Dillon (-3), Chase Briscoe (-9) and Harvick (-35).

Bush finds himself in the position after a mid-race run in Kansas. He kept his car away from the wall, but plowing in the grass did enough damage that he didn’t have much speed. He finished 26th and holds no momentum in Bristol.

But so what? Bush has won eight times on concrete Bristol Stadium and once on dirt there. In the spring, he took advantage of the Briscoe-Reddick tangle on the last lap to take the win. This was definitely the luckiest part of his season.

Will he need some luck this weekend? Or, with eight career victories in Bristol, is he satisfied with racing on Saturday?

Not with luck this year, not at all,” Bush said. “No, I’ll try hard, and if what Bristol has always been like happens, we’ll be fine.

“But the way it has been this year, if that happens? It’s going to be ugly.”

Kyle Bush trying to advance in the playoffs

Kyle Bush trying to advance in the playoffs

Kyle Busch discusses his role on Sunday and his expectations about trying to advance in Bristol as he sits a few points down the cut past Kansas.

Bosch is a two-time playoff system cup champion (2015 and 2019), while Harvick won the inaugural playoffs in 2014.

Another surprise on the bubble is Reddick, a two-time winner this year. He also crashed in Kansas and now finds himself on the edge of a cliff.

“Bristol is unknown,” Riddick said. “We run there well from time to time…we will do everything we can to bring the best car possible to Bristol.”

Teams used to customize cars for specific races, but because the next generation car is assembled from parts and pieces that teams get from vendors, they don’t have specific cars for specific tracks anymore.

“We basically schedule cars, so it’s more effective and efficient for store flow, than it is for performance,” said Chase Elliott crew chief Alan Gustafson.

Tyler Riddick: There was no warning tire falling off

Tyler Riddick: There was no warning tire falling off

Tyler Riddick describes the tire issue that led to his car wreck in Kansas and assesses his chances of progressing in Bristol.

What will these drivers and teams do in Bristol to try and expand their championship hopes? They will have to draw on their experiences in qualifying and their experiences in pressure situations.

Harvick and Busch know what that’s like. And they know how to put any distractions aside.

Busch will be testing however again this week, with an announcement that he has eight races left with Joe Gibbs Racing.

“I’m a racer. That’s all I know, so when I get to the racetrack every weekend, I put on my helmet, and that’s what I focus on being on my own,” Busch said.

“I do my best inside that car, and I don’t have to think about anything other than making that car go fast.”

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think out loud

Going to North Wilkesboro for the NASCAR All-Star Race is a great move. The only question is whether 2023 is too early.

NASCAR’s 75th anniversary season makes it fitting to race there for the first time since 1996. But there’s also a lot of work to be done at the facility.

NASCAR and Speedway Motorsports know they need to be aggressive in getting things done, but unfortunately many details of the plans were not included in Thursday’s announcement because federal funds used to improve the facility are still in the process of being earmarked.

The biggest key would be to make sure they don’t add too much seating and sell more seats than they have the ability to park and get people in and out in a reasonable time. The last thing NASCAR needs is a major traffic problem and people are missing a race – or getting there and not having the facility running smoothly.

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Today’s stats

The last time a car number won two races on the same track in the same season with different drivers was #21 at the Wood Brothers in 1972, when AJ Foyt won the Daytona 500 and David Pearson won the Firecracker 400 in Daytona.

they said that

“Real fans out there, thanks guys. I love you. It’s been a tough road. You guys are the best. Let’s keep this train running.” Bubba Wallace

Bob Pokras covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He’s spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @Popocrasand subscribe to Newsletter from FOX Sports NASCAR with Bob Pokras.

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