Bristol Motor Speedway: NASCAR playoff bubble

There are only three races left before the playoffs begin in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

The NASCAR Cup Series is headed to Bristol Motor Speedway for the second time this season. This trip to Bristol is important for the four drivers on the playoff bubble with only three races before the playoffs begin.

Let’s take a look at the four drivers currently on the playoff bubble.

Ryan Newman (16 points ahead of the cutoff)

We wrote about Newman earlier this year, specifically his strong first season with a new team. Well, now with three races remaining until the playoffs, Newman has his No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford on the right side of the standings.

In early July, Newman strung together three straight top-10 finishes. In his last three races he has a pair of top-15 finishes and has been out-finishing the cars around him.

Newman has an average finish of 10.3 in his last three races at Bristol Motor Speedway. In fact, his worst finish in those races was 12th. Newman will be a NASCAR playoff bubble driver to watch this weekend.

Clint Bowyer heads to one of his best racetracks, Bristol Motor Speedway, inside the playoff bubble. (World Copyright: Rusty Jarrett, NKP)

Clint Bowyer (6 points ahead of the cutoff)

Bowyer is currently trending down with three races left before the playoffs. He finished 37th at Michigan which was his fourth finish of 20th or worse in his last six races.

The good news for Bowyer is that the next race is at Bristol Motor Speedway. He has the second best average finish, 7.0, in the last three races at Bristol. He’s also one of three drivers to finish inside the top-10 in the last three races as well.

Add to all of Bowyer’s impressive stats is the fact that he is looking forward racing at another short-track.

“You would have to really sell hard for me not to believe that short-track racing is our best product,” said Bowyer in his pre-race team advance.

“It just is, and the reason I say that is because it’s so much fun, so demanding inside the car. The workload is through the roof for the driver and the excitement is there for the fans.”

Daniel Suarez is still looking for his first NASCAR Cup Series playoff berth. (World Copyright: Logan Whitton, NKP)

Daniel Suarez (6 points behind the cutoff)

Suarez bounced back at Michigan International Speedway with a fifth place finish. That stopped three race stretch where he failed to finish better than 17th place.

Now Suarez heads to Bristol Motor Speedway where he has an average finish of 12.3 in the last three races. He hasn’t finished worse than 18th, however, the rest of the playoff bubble drivers have performed better than him at Bristol.

A win would lock Suarez in the playoffs but he knows he can’t take many risks right now.

“If the possibility to win the race is in front of me, we are going to take it,” said Suarez in his pre-race team advance.

“But I have to be smart and put the importance of the points and the risk that we are going to take to make sure it’s worth it for us.”

Jimmie Johnson could miss the playoffs for the first time in his career. (World Copyright: Rusty Jarrett, NKP)

Jimmie Johnson (12 points behind the cutoff)

Jimmie Johnson is sliding down the standings at the worst possible time. Johnson has finishes of 30th or worse in three of the last five races.

After Daytona in July, Johnson was 13th in the standings. He now sits 18th headed to Bristol.

The silver lining in all of this is that Johnson has the third best average finish, 7.3, in the last the races at Bristol. He joins Bowyer as the second of three drivers to finish inside the top-10 in the last three Bristol races.

Johnson needs a strong run and Bristol might be his best chance to stop his slide.

Follow Matt on Twitter @mattlovisa.