Kevin Harvick came from a lowly grid position of 24th to comfortably win the Bass Pro Shops NRA 500 at the half mile Bristol Motor Speedway. The race had been delayed overnight following heavy rain showers at a track significantly modified during the summer to attract better racing on the bottom groove.
The dominant car in the early stages, and the most likely challenger to Kevin Harvick for victory, Kyle Busch, led over 250 laps before a rear suspension failure took him out of the race, leaving the Joe Gibbs Racing driver throwing his helmet at his car in frustration.
The biggest story of the race however was the implications a multi-car wreck, triggered by a spin for then leader Kurt Busch on lap 371, would have on the Chase standings. As Busch went sideways across the racetrack, Chase Elliott (12th in points) got into the back of Matt Kenseth, who spun into the path of Ryan Blaney (18th in points), whilst another Chase contender Kyle Larson (15th in points), also sustained heavy damage.
The crash allowed 2016 race winner Chris Buescher to drive a clean race to 5th, thus picking up the points he needs to move into the top 30 in the standings to automatically qualify for the Chase. This means that Ryan Newman, who also had problems during the race, finishing in 28th, is now on the Chase bubble, with Kasey Kahne and Larson behind him needing to make up over 30 points in the next couple of races to take his spot away. A win now seems the more likely scenario for drivers behind Newman to steal a Chase place.
It was a notable race for Ricky Stenhouse Jr, who took a joint career best 2nd behind Harvick, whilst Denny Hamlin and Austin Dillon also finished in the top 5, an important result for Dillon, all but confirming his Chase place. Jamie McMurray also gave his Chase hopes a huge boost in a run to 8th, putting the Chip Ganassi Racing driver 42 points clear of the cut line.
With only 3 races left before the Chase for the Sprint Cup begins, drivers and teams will look to start to build some Championship momentum starting at the high-speed Michigan International Speedway next weekend.