To say that the race under the lights at Bristol was wild would be a massive understatement. There was chaos seemingly every 20 laps of the 500-lap event. The NextGen had been on the track earlier this year, but that race was run on dirt. That race had an incredible finish as two drivers battling for the race win crashed on the final lap, opening the door for Kyle Busch.

Lady luck did not smile on Kyle tonight though, as he was one of the drivers eliminated from playoff contention. As the third and final race of the first round, the bottom four drivers in the points standings are eliminated and the 12 remaining drivers are reset by points heading into the next round.

Kyle has had a disappoint season, especially by his standards. That gift win on the Bristol dirt was his only victory of the season. His year has also been marred by the questions and uncertainty surrounding his future driving plans. Those were finally answered earlier this week, when it was announced that he would be leaving Joe Gibbs Racing after 15 years and heading to Richard Childress Racing.

It seemed as though that would have been a 500-pound weight lifted off his shoulders heading into this weekend. Early in the race, Busch was battling towards the front of the field, and was in a solid spot in the standings. It all fell apart on Lap 270 when his engine went up into smoke.

The No. 18 Camry was finished, and so were Kyle’s chances of winning a third title with the organization where he has won 56 Cup races. "Absolutely devastated. Just unfortunate circumstances, and another engine failure this week. Obviously, we were already in a hole coming in. I can’t stress enough just how much I feel for my guys, the ones that are out there pouring their souls into this effort and this opportunity for us to go race for championships. It’s not fair to them. We all want better, we all should have better, and it’s just not coming to us."

Kyle will be taking over the No. 8 Chevrolet next season, which is currently being driven by Tyler Reddick. It has been a breakout season for Reddick, notching his first two race wins earlier in the year. Silly Season turned on its head when Reddick surprised everyone by announcing that he would be moving on to 23XI Racing in 2024.

This has been a roller coaster week for Reddick, who qualified on pole a week ago at Kansas, then crashed out of the race. On Tuesday, he found out that Childress was giving Kyle the No. 8 car, and his crew chief for next year. Tonight he was caught up in a massive wreck that ultimately ended his playoff run.

Tyler finished 13th in the standings, just two points shy of advancing to the next round. "Frustrating for sure," Reddick said. "We just didn't quite have the pace or balance and we were pretty much limited. I checked up in time but I got absolutely ran over. This place is tough on the drivers and it’s tough on the cars as well. You just never know how it’s going to go."

Reddick’s current teammate is Austin Dillon, who snuck his way into the playoffs at the 11th hour with a massive stroke of luck in the season-finale at Daytona. After subpar performances in the first two races, Dillon found himself below the cut line when he too was caught up in the big accident in tonight’s race.

Dillon was a dark horse to even make it to the next round, but the disappointment was still felt by the owner’s grandson after they finally got both cars into the playoffs for the first time since 2017.

2022 NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Standings (After Race 3 of 10) 
Pos Driver Team ManufacturerPoints
1Chase ElliottHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet 
2Joey LoganoTeam PenskeFord-15
3Ross ChastainTrackHouse RacingChevrolet-20
4Kyle LarsonHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet-21
5William ByronHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet-25
6Denny HamlinJoe Gibbs RacingToyota-27
7Christopher BellJoe Gibbs RacingToyota-27
8Ryan BlaneyTeam PenskeFord-27
9Chase BriscoeStewart Haas RacingFord-31
10Alex BowmanHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet-33
11Daniel SuarezTrackHouse RacingChevrolet-33
12Austin CindricTeam PenskeFord-34

Those three drivers will all be driving for RCR next season, but the irony doesn’t stop there. The fourth driver eliminated from the playoffs tonight actually spent the first 13 years of his Cup career driving for Childress.

Kevin Harvick was essentially facing a must-win situation tonight, after two DNFs in the opening two races. He has answered that bell multiple times over the course of his career, and it looked like it might happen again in this race. Harvick battled up front for most of the night, and was making his final pit stop when it happened.

The left-front wheel on Harvick’s No. 4 Mustang came off as he tried to leave his pit box. Just when it appeared he might find himself in the lead with less than 70 laps remaining, a timely mistake by the pit crew set them back. It ended up being too much for the Stewart Haas Racing driver to overcome.

Despite the difficult way that it ended, this was a good year for the 2014 champion, who won back-to-back races after ending his long winless streak. “It was pretty tough,” Harvick said. “We pitted in front of the No. 17 (Chris Buescher), so just kind of the way the year has gone. Just went from having a chance to lead the parade to being a part of the parade. Just difficult to pass.”

After an exciting week leading up to the race, this was a disastrous ending for Childress and the organization. Still, they have something to build on going into next season, which hasn’t been the case in quite some time.