Elliott Wins at Martinsville and Makes it to the Championship Four

Peter Casey/USA Today Sports

MARTINSVILLE, VA – RIS – It was make-or break day at the little paper clip track in Ridgeway, Virginia, known as Martinsville Speedway.  The powers that be decided to make NASCAR’s playoff final four for all national series be determined on the circuits smallest track and it was brilliant.  Chase Elliott needed to win to sneak into the final four that will vie for the NASCAR Cup championship, and he did just that. Elliott passed Martin Truex Jr. for the lead with 43 laps to go. He held that lead the rest of the way to get the win and the automatic berth in the four-driver championship race next weekend in Phoenix. He led a race-best 236 laps at the .526-mile short track and won by 6.5 seconds over friend Ryan Blaney.

“Oh my gosh. Biggest win ever, for us,” Elliott said after he won for the fourth time this season. “To be backed into a corner like that and to win like that, that’s been the missing piece for this team, to be able to do something like that.

Joining Elliott in the Championship 4 will be Joey Logano of Team Penske, who secured his berth three weeks ago with a win at Kansas Speedway, Brad Keselowski of Team Penske and Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing, who snuck in on points.

A trio of drivers who looked like locks to advance to the final four ran into big trouble Sunday.

The thought of Kevin Harvick not making the Championship race seemed inconceivable when the Martinsville race started — the Stewart-Haas Racing driver had won a series-best nine times on the season and was 42 points above the cutline on Sunday morning, but after the race started, Harvick quickly began losing ground. But when Kurt Busch moved to the lead early in the second stage, Harvick was in 25th place and at that point, below the cutline.

“I tried to run into the door of the 18 as a last-ditch effort, trying to gain a point,” Harvick said. “We fought for everything, just came up short.”

Hamlin, a seven-time winner this season who went race-for-race with Harvick all year, lamented not getting a shot at his rival in Phoenix.

“I feel bad for Kevin, they probably deserve better than that,” Hamlin said. “Everything you do for eight innings doesn’t matter if you don’t have a good ninth inning.”

On Lap 180, while running 25th, Harvick suffered a cut tire and had to pit. That put him two laps down. But four laps later, the yellow flag waved and Harvick took the wave-around and moved to just one lap down.

He stayed a lap down and in danger of not advancing until there was just over 100 laps to go. At that point, a caution came out with Harvick the first car a lap down and his day took a big turn for the better as he got back on the lead lap. He battled Brad Keselowski of Team Penske and Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing the rest of the way for the final Championship 4 berth.  He was close.  He only needed to pass Kyle Busch coming to the line, but instead go into the wide of his opponent’s car.  Busch got across the start-finish line first, sealing the final four without Harvick.

Martin Truex Jr., who had won the past two races at Martinsville, had to pit late with tire trouble after leading for 129 laps, which ended his title hopes.

While Harvick’s race didn’t go well, Elliott’s day had it’s low points.  In the end, the finish was reminiscent of finishes from long ago when Richard Petty used to win by that much or more.  It was a total surprise, but a good one for the Georgia son of NASCAR star and champion Bill Elliott.  Can you just imagine the siren at the Dawsonville was sounded for a long time?  It’s on to Phoenix!

Unofficial Results, Xfinity 500, Martinsville Speedway

Fin, Str, Driver, Car, Laps, St1, St2, Tms Led, Laps Led, Playoff Pts, Pts, Status
1) 8, Chase Elliott* (P), No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, 500, 4, 1, 5, 236, 6, 57, Running
2) 10, Ryan Blaney, No. 12 Menards/Libman Ford, 500, , 4, 1, 36, , 42, Running
3) 7, Joey Logano* (P), No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, 500, 5, 8, 3, 19, , 43, Running
4) 1, Brad Keselowski* (P), No. 2 Dent Wizard Ford, 500, 3, 7, 1, 3, , 45, Running
5) 5, Kurt Busch (P), No. 1 Monster Energy Chevrolet, 500, 9, 5, 1, 23, , 40, Running
6) 3, Alex Bowman (P), No. 88 Planters Chevrolet, 500, 2, 9, 1, 1, , 42, Running
7) 20, Aric Almirola, No. 10 Smithfield Hometown Original Ford, 500, , , , , , 30, Running
8) 16, Clint Bowyer, No. 14 Clint Bowyer Tribute Ford, 500, , , , , , 29, Running
9) 9, Kyle Busch, No. 18 M&M's Toyota, 500, 7, 6, 1, 5, , 37, Running
10) 12, Matt DiBenedetto, No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford, 500, , , , , , 27, Running
11) 4, Denny Hamlin* (P), No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota, 500, 1, 3, 3, 42, 1, 44, Running
12) 19, Erik Jones, No. 20 Toyota Camry Toyota, 500, , , , , , 25, Running
13) 15, Cole Custer #, No. 41 HaasTooling.com Ford, 500, , , , , , 24, Running
14) 31, Matt Kenseth, No. 42 Clover Chevrolet, 500, , , , , , 23, Running
15) 11, Christopher Bell #, No. 95 Germania Insurance Toyota, 500, , , , , , 22, Running
16) 25, Ty Dillon, No. 13 GEICOween Chevrolet, 500, , , , , , 21, Running
17) 6, Kevin Harvick (P), No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford, 500, , , , , , 20, Running
18) 21, Ryan Newman, No. 6 Guaranteed Rate Ford, 499, , 10, , , , 20, Running
19) 22, Ryan Preece, No. 37 Louisiana Hot Sauce Chevrolet, 499, , , , , , 18, Running
20) 18, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., No. 47 Kroger Chevrolet, 499, , , , , , 17, Running
21) 32, Bubba Wallace, No. 43 DoorDash Chevrolet, 499, , , , , , 16, Running
22) 2, Martin Truex Jr. (P), No. 19 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota, 499, 6, 2, 4, 129, , 29, Running
23) 14, Austin Dillon, No. 3 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Off Road Chevrolet, 498, , , , , , 14, Running
24) 17, Tyler Reddick #, No. 8 Motor Trend Chevrolet, 498, , , , , , 13, Running
25) 26, Corey LaJoie, No. 32 CorvetteParts.net Ford, 498, , , 1, 6, , 12, Running
26) 23, John Hunter Nemechek #, No. 38 Death Wish Coffee Ford, 498, , , , , , 11, Running
27) 29, * Daniel Suarez, No. 96 PeacockTV - Can't Not Watch Toyota, 497, , , , , , 10, Running
28) 24, Michael McDowell, No. 34 CarParts Ford, 497, , , , , , 9, Running
29) 34, * Timmy Hill(i), No. 66 DREAMWORKS MOTORSPORTS Toyota, 495, , , , , , 0, Running
30) 27, Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Ally Sign for Jimmie Chevrolet, 495, 10, , , , , 8, Running
31) 38, JJ Yeley(i), No. 27 Figgers Ford, 494, , , , , , 0, Running
32) 33, * Josh Bilicki(i), No. 7 Insurance King Chevrolet, 490, , , , , , 0, Running
33) 35, Quin Houff #, No. 00 UNITS Chevrolet, 489, , , , , , 4, Running
34) 39, Joey Gase(i), No. 51 Thanks to our Sponsors Ford, 447, , , , , , 0, Electrical
35) 13, William Byron, No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet, 439, 8, , , , , 5, Accident
36) 37, James Davison, No. 53 VIR Ford, 422, , , , , , 1, Electrical
37) 30, Brennan Poole #, No. 15 THRIV5 Chevrolet, 184, , , , , , 1, Accident
38) 28, Chris Buescher, No. 17 Fifth Third Bank Ford, 146, , , , , , 1, Accident
39) 36, Garrett Smithley(i), No. 77 12secondculturebook.com Chevrolet, 100, , , , , , 0, Electrical
(*) Advance to 'final four' (i) Ineligible for driver points in this series, (#) Rookie, (P) Playoffs qualified

Time of race: 3 hr, 40 min, 27 sec
Race length: 500 laps, 263 miles
Average speed: 71.581 mph
Margin of victory: 6.577 seconds

Stage 1 Top 10: 11, 88, 2, 9, 22, 19, 18, 24, 1, 48
Stage 2 Top 10: 9, 19, 11, 12, 1, 18, 2, 22, 88, 6

Race Comments: Chase Elliott won the Xfinity 500 at Martinsville Speedway, his 10th victory in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Prior to the start, the following vehicle(s) dropped to the rear of the field under penalty for the reasons indicated: No. 77 (driver change).

Caution Flags: 12 for 83 laps;
Laps: 62-68 (Competition [13]);
74-79 (No. 14, 3, 10 Incident Turn 1 [38]);
105-109 (No. 77 Stalled On Track  [96]);
116-120 (No. 00, 51 Incident Turn 4 [27]);
132-139 (Stage 1 Conclusion [15]);
147-158 (Possible Fluid On Track From No. 17 [66]);
186-192 (No. 15 Incident Turn 2 [None]);
217-221 (No. 38, 37 Incident Turn 2 [66]);
262-267 (Stage 2 Conclusion [66]);
353-358 (No. 66 Incident Turn 2 [42]);
401-408 (No. 53 Stalled On Track [4]);
442-449 (No. 24 Incident Turn 4 [37]).

Lead Changes: 20 among 10 drivers;
B. Keselowski (P) 1-3;
M. Truex Jr. (P) 4-88;
C. Elliott (P) 89-112;
D. Hamlin (P) 113-133;
A. Bowman (P) 134;
K. Busch 135-139;
K. Busch (P) 140-162;
C. Elliott (P) 163-217;
D. Hamlin (P) 218-220;
J. Logano (P) 221;
D. Hamlin (P) 222-239;
C. Elliott (P) 240-266;
M. Truex Jr. (P) 267;
C. Elliott (P) 268-353;
J. Logano (P) 354-368;
R. Blaney 369-404;
J. Logano (P) 405-407;
M. Truex Jr. (P) 408-442;
C. LaJoie 443-448;
M. Truex Jr. (P) 449-456;
C. Elliott (P) 457-500.

American Ethanol Green Flag Restart Award:  Chase Elliott, No. 9

Sunoco Rookie of the Race:  Cole Custer, No. 41

Ron Fleshman with John Davison

RIS NASCAR Editor.  Has been with RIS since the middle 90's. Writes on each of the three main series of NASCAR.

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Volume 2020, Issue 11, Posted 7:56 PM, 11.01.2020