After combining to sweep the first two races of the first three-race round of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs for Joe Gibbs Racing at Darlington Raceway and Richmond Raceway, JGR teammates Martin Truex Jr. start on the front row for the Bass Pro Shops Night Race on Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway. Truex, the most recent race winner, starts on the pole for the elimination race of round one.
“It’s definitely a relief to have that win and not have to worry about Bristol this week,” Truex said. “I enjoy racing there and we’ve had some great cars, but for whatever reason, we have had no luck whatsoever on the Cup side. Whether it’s flat tires, loose wheels, speeding penalties, getting caught up in crashes, you name it and it’s happened to us at Bristol. So, from that standpoint, it hasn’t been our best track, but we’re capable of running well there if we can just have a smooth night. It would mean a lot to have a good run, because it’s a big night for Johnny Morris and everyone at Bass Pro sponsoring the race, so we’re going to give it our best shot and see if we can get a few more playoff points before the next round.”
Darlington winner Hamlin starts second.
“We want to win. Even though we’ve already punched our ticket into the next round, we want another win,” Hamlin said. “Our team enjoyed that trip to victory lane a couple weeks ago, and we want to go back. Bristol is a favorite of our crew chief Chris Gabehart especially, and I think he wants that trophy as badly as any of us.”
Joey Logano starts third and shares row two on the Bristol starting grid with reigning Cup Series champion Chase Elliott. This year’s regular-season champion Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell start in the third row Saturday night.
Ryan Blaney starts seventh next to defending Bristol night race winner Kevin Harvick, who hasn’t won since last year’s edition of the race.
“Several years ago, if you were going to compete with the 48 car [Jimmie Johnson] on a week-to-week basis, you had to playoff race every week, and that’s always something Rodney [Childers, crew chief] and myself and the team have prided ourselves on,” Harvick said. “The preparation is no different. You prepare and do all the same things you do on a weekly basis to be able to compete at a high level. There’s obviously a lot more chatter about playoffs and first-round races and third-round races, and in the end, I know those are great stories, but all that stuff is irrelevant to us. We’re week-to-week racers,and we’ll prepare the same, win or lose, every week.”
Eight-time Bristol winner Kyle Busch starts ninth, sharing row five with Brad Keselowski.
BASS PRO SHOPS NIGHT RACE STARTING LINEUP