BRISTOL, Tenn – Denny Hamlin felt terrible for passing Matt DiBenedetto for the win in Saturday night’s Bass Pro Shops NRA Night race at the Bristol (Tenn) Motor Speedway. While he never wants to feel bad about passing a fellow competitor for a win, it’s just the situation that his good friend is now in as he’s auditioning for a new job for 2020 and a win in the Bristol night race would go a long way in securing one.
But, for the bubble drivers in the playoff standings, they couldn’t have been prouder to see Hamlin win.
See, if DiBenedetto had won, then the playoff standings would have been shaken up. As we headed towards the wire of the regular season, it was appearing that it was going to be a four way battle for the final two spots into the postseason between Ryan Newman, Daniel Suarez, Clint Bowyer and Jimmie Johnson. But, a win by DiBenedetto on Saturday night would have taken a spot away from them.
The Leavine Family Racing driver is 23rd in the points standings but a win would have guaranteed him a spot into the playoffs. If he did in fact win, then Suarez being two points above Bowyer for the final playoff spot would in turn make him 12 points behind Newman for the 16th position.
Newman, would be 43 points back of Erik Jones and 51 behind Aric Almirola. Johnson, would be 40 points back of Newman for 16th too.
Jones and Almirola who look in a good spot now at +65 for Almirola and +57 for Jones would have been much more nervous. If they had another bad race like they’ve had the last two weeks, then Newman could have caught them.
Johnson, would have all but been eliminated too.
That’s why Hamlin’s win was popular with the wildcard drivers on Saturday night.