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Kyle Busch (18) speaks with his crew before a NASCAR Cup Series auto race Sunday, Sept. 6, 2020, in Darlington, S.C. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

AP

In the hours leading up to NASCAR’s Night Race at Bristol, fans circled the speedway in a scene that looked almost pre-pandemic with trailers filling nearby lots and thousands of fans scattered around the track anticipating the start of the first cutoff race of the Cup Series playoffs.

Bristol Motor Speedway announced last Wednesday that it sold out tickets for the event, which kicks off tonight at 7:30 p.m. on NBCSN. BMS president Jerry Caldwell told The Observer he expects just under 30,000 fans to attend the race.

Bristol hosted an Xfinity race, won by Chase Briscoe, on Friday evening in which up to 20,000 tickets were on sale. Tickets were still on sale the day before that event.

Brad Keselowski, who is locked into the next playoff Round of 12 with a win at Richmond, is starting on the pole at Bristol’s half-mile track Saturday night. In addition to Keselowski, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin are also advancing to the next round — Harvick with a win at Darlington and Hamlin on points — while the remaining 13 playoff drivers are attempting to stay out of the bottom four in points or secure a win tonight.

The Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race is 267 miles (500 laps) with stages ending on laps 125, 250 and 500.

Follow along here for lap-by-lap updates from Bristol Motor Speedway. Refresh this page for the latest updates and follow NASCAR reporter Alex Andrejev on Twitter at @AndrejevAlex.

Pre-race: Three Joe Gibbs Racing cars get penalties, sent to the rear

NASCAR announces that the cars of Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Erik Jones, all of whom drive for Joe Gibbs Racing, failed pre-race technical inspection twice and will start at the back of the field for tonight’s race. Hamlin was slated to start seventh and is already advancing to the next round of playoffs, while Jones (previously starting 20th) is ineligible for playoffs. Reigning Cup champion Kyle Busch, however, is still seeking his first win of the season and is 18 points above the 12-driver cutoff in the playoffs. Busch received a penalty last weekend at Richmond and also started at the back of the field. He was slated to start ninth before the penalty.

NASCAR and Charlotte FC beat reporter Alex Andrejev joined The Observer in January 2020 following an internship at The Washington Post. She played Division I volleyball at Columbia University before earning her master’s degree at the University of Southern California.
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