Historic Martinsville Speedway Ready to Finalize NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4

Known as one of the best tracks to settle a score or decide who gets to advance on for a championship in an elimination race, the historic 0.526-mile Martinsville Speedway will once again play host to the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs’ Round of 8 elimination race, the Xfinity 500 on Sunday, October 30 at 2 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

The 2022 season marks the 19th year Martinsville Speedway has hosted a NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race, and the third-time the track has hosted the penultimate race of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs – the Round of 8 elimination race (Race No. 9 of 10).

Since the inception of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs in 2004, Martinsville Speedway has occupied three distinct positions on the postseason schedule; from 2004 – 2010 (seven seasons) Martinsville hosted the sixth race in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. Then from 2011 – 2019 (nine seasons) Martinsville Speedway hosted the seventh race in the Playoffs and from 2020 – 2022 (three seasons) Martinsville has hosted the ninth race in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs – the Round of 8 elimination race that will decide the Championship 4. Martinsville Speedway is the third different track to host the ninth race in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs; joining Darlington Raceway (2004) and Phoenix Raceway (2005-2019).

A total of 10 different drivers have won a NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Martinsville Speedway. Jimmie Johnson leads the NASCAR Cup Series in postseason wins at Martinsville Speedway with six Playoff victories (2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2016). Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin leads all active NASCAR Cup Series drivers in postseason wins at Martinsville with two Playoff victories (2009, 2010). Hamlin is joined by two other active Playoff contenders that have also won a Playoff race at Martinsville, Joey Logano (2018) and Chase Elliott (2020).

NASCAR Cup Series Martinsville Speedway Playoff Race Winners
Track Playoff Race Winner Date Race No.
Martinsville Jimmie Johnson Sunday, October 24, 2004 32
Martinsville Jeff Gordon Sunday, October 23, 2005 32
Martinsville Jimmie Johnson Sunday, October 22, 2006 32
Martinsville Jimmie Johnson Sunday, October 21, 2007 32
Martinsville Jimmie Johnson Sunday, October 19, 2008 32
Martinsville Denny Hamlin Sunday, October 25, 2009 32
Martinsville Denny Hamlin Sunday, October 24, 2010 32
Martinsville Tony Stewart Sunday, October 30, 2011 33
Martinsville Jimmie Johnson Sunday, October 28, 2012 33
Martinsville Jeff Gordon Sunday, October 27, 2013 33
Martinsville Dale Earnhardt Jr Sunday, October 26, 2014 33
Martinsville Jeff Gordon Sunday, November 1, 2015 33
Martinsville Jimmie Johnson Sunday, October 30, 2016 33
Martinsville Kyle Busch Sunday, October 29, 2017 33
Martinsville Joey Logano Sunday, October 28, 2018 33
Martinsville Martin Truex Jr Sunday, October 27, 2019 33
Martinsville Chase Elliott Sunday, November 1, 2020 35
Martinsville Alex Bowman Sunday, October 31, 2021 35

A total of 11 different drivers have won the ninth race in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. Jimmie Johnson (2004, 2007, 2008, 2009) and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick (2006, 2012, 2013, 2014) lead the NASCAR Cup Series in wins in the ninth race of the postseason with four victories each. Plus, four active NASCAR Cup Series Playoff contenders have won the ninth race in the Playoffs previously, Joey Logano won at Phoenix in 2016, Denny Hamlin won at Phoenix in 2019 and Chase Elliott won at Martinsville in 2020.

NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Race No. 9 – Race Winners
Track Race Winners Date
Darlington Jimmie Johnson Sunday, November 14, 2004
Phoenix Kyle Busch Sunday, November 13, 2005
Phoenix Kevin Harvick Sunday, November 12, 2006
Phoenix Jimmie Johnson Sunday, November 11, 2007
Phoenix Jimmie Johnson Sunday, November 9, 2008
Phoenix Jimmie Johnson Sunday, November 15, 2009
Phoenix Carl Edwards Sunday, November 14, 2010
Phoenix Kasey Kahne Sunday, November 13, 2011
Phoenix Kevin Harvick Sunday, November 11, 2012
Phoenix Kevin Harvick Sunday, November 10, 2013
Phoenix Kevin Harvick Sunday, November 9, 2014
Phoenix Dale Earnhardt Jr Sunday, November 15, 2015
Phoenix Joey Logano Sunday, November 13, 2016
Phoenix Matt Kenseth Sunday, November 12, 2017
Phoenix Kyle Busch Sunday, November 11, 2018
Phoenix Denny Hamlin Sunday, November 10, 2019
Martinsville Chase Elliott Sunday, November 1, 2020
Martinsville Alex Bowman Sunday, October 31, 2021

Seven times the winner of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Martinsville Speedway has gone on to win the title that same season – tied with Homestead-Miami Speedway for the most of tracks on the Playoff schedule – (2006, 2007, 2008, 2011, 2016, 2018, 2020).

  • In 2006, Jimmie Johnson won from the ninth starting position at Martinsville Speedway, then the sixth race in the Playoffs, and went on to win his first of seven NASCAR Cup Series championships. It was his only win during the 2006 Playoffs.
  • In 2007, Jimmie Johnson won from the fourth starting position at Martinsville Speedway, then the sixth race in the Playoffs, and went on to win his second consecutive NASCAR Cup Series championship that same season. The Playoff victory was the first of a record setting four straight postseason wins during the 2007 Playoffs (Martinsville, Atlanta, Texas and Phoenix).
  • In 2008, Jimmie Johnson won from the first starting position at Martinsville Speedway (Qualifying was cancelled), then the sixth race in the Playoffs, and went on to win his third consecutive NASCAR Cup Series championship. The win was his second of three victories during the 2008 Playoffs.
  • In 2011, Tony Stewart won from the fourth starting position at Martinsville Speedway, then the seventh race in the Playoffs, and went on to win his third NASCAR Cup Series championship. The win was one of a record setting five Playoff victories for Stewart during the 2011 postseason.
  • In 2016, Jimmie Johnson won from the third starting position at Martinsville Speedway, then the seventh race in the Playoffs, and went on to win his record tying seventh NASCAR Cup Series championship. The win was his second of three Playoff victories during the 2016 postseason.
  • In 2018, Joey Logano won from the 10th starting position at Martinsville Speedway, then the seventh race in the Playoffs, and went on to win his first NASCAR Cup Series championship. The win was his first of two Playoff victories during the 2018 postseason.
  • In 2020, Chase Elliott won from the eighth starting position at Martinsville Speedway, then the ninth race in the Playoffs, and went on to win his first NASCAR Cup Series championship. The win was his second of three victories during the 2020 postseason.

The worst finish in a Playoff race at Martinsville Speedway by a driver that went on to win the title the same season was 33rd by Kevin Harvick in 2014 – that season Martinsville Speedway was the seventh race in the Playoffs.

Five times the winner of the ninth race in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs has gone on to win the title that same season: (2007, 2008, 2009, 2014, 2020).

  • In 2007, Jimmie Johnson won from the sixth starting position at Phoenix Raceway, then the ninth race of the postseason, and went on to win his second consecutive NASCAR Cup Series championship. The Playoff victory was the fourth of a record setting four straight postseason wins during the 2007 Playoffs (Martinsville, Atlanta, Texas and Phoenix).
  • In 2008, Jimmie Johnson won from the pole at Phoenix Raceway, then the ninth race of the postseason, and went on to win his third consecutive NASCAR Cup Series championship. The win was his third of three victories during the 2008 Playoffs.
  • In 2009, Jimmie Johnson won from the third starting position at Phoenix Raceway, then the ninth race of the postseason, and went on to win his fourth consecutive NASCAR Cup Series championship. The victory was his fourth of four wins during the 2009 postseason.
  • In 2014, Kevin Harvick won from the third starting position at Phoenix Raceway, then the ninth race of the postseason, and went on to win his first NASCAR Cup Series championship. Harvick faced elimination from the Playoffs heading into this race and become the first to clinch his spot in the Championship 4 by winning the Round of 8 elimination race. The win was also his second of three Playoff victories during the 2014 postseason.
  • In 2020, Chase Elliott won from the eighth starting position at Martinsville Speedway, then the ninth race of the postseason, and went on to win his first NASCAR Cup Series championship. With the win Elliott became the second driver to earn a spot in the Championship 4 Round by winning the Round of 8 elimination race – joining Kevin Harvick (2014). The win was his second of three Playoff victories during the 2020 postseason.

The worst finish in the ninth race of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs by a driver that went on to win the title that same season:

  • At Phoenix, 38th by Jimmie Johnson in 2016.
  • At Darlington, sixth by Kurt Busch in 2004.
  • At Martinsville, 14th by Kyle Larson in 2021.

Three times non-Playoff drivers have won the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Martinsville Speedway: (2005, 2014, 2021).

  • In 2005, Jeff Gordon was ranked 15th in the points at the time of his Playoff win at Martinsville.
  • In 2014, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was 11th in points at the time of the win. Earnhardt Jr. had made the Playoffs in 2014 but was eliminated in the Round of 12.
  • In 2021, Alex Bowman was 14th in points at the time of the win at Martinsville Speedway, the ninth race of the postseason. Bowman had made the Playoffs in 2021 but was eliminated in the Round of 12.

Five times non-Playoff drivers have won the ninth Playoff race in the NASCAR Cup Series postseason: (2005, 2011, 2015, 2017, 2021).

  • In 2005, Kyle Busch was ranked 19th in the points at the time of the win at Phoenix.
  • In 2011, Kasey Kahne was ranked 14th in the points at the time of the win at Phoenix.
  • In 2015, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was seventh in points at the time of the win at Phoenix. Earnhardt Jr. had made the Playoffs in 2015 but was eliminated in the Round of 12.
  • In 2017, Matt Kenseth was seventh in points at the time of the win at Phoenix. Kenseth had made the Playoffs in 2017 but was eliminated in the Round of 12.
  • In 2021, Alex Bowman was 14th in points at the time of the win at Martinsville Speedway, the ninth race of the postseason. Bowman had made the Playoffs in 2021 but was eliminated in the Round of 12.

To catch all the side-by-side action the NASCAR Cup Series is known for make sure to tune-in to practice and Busch Light Pole Qualifying on the USA Network at 12:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, October 29.

NASCAR Cup Series

  • Next Race: Xfinity 500
  • The Place: Martinsville Speedway
  • The Date: Sunday, October 30
  • The Time: 2 p.m. ET
  • The Purse: $8,132,735
  • TV: NBC, 1:30 p.m. ET
  • Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR (Channel 90)
  • Distance: 263 miles (500 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 130),
  • Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 260), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 500)

Clinch Scenarios: The penultimate race of the season at Martinsville Speedway

Martinsville Speedway offers one last opportunity in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 8 for seven postseason challengers to earn their spot in the Championship 4 Round at Phoenix Raceway on November 6. Only one of the coveted four spots are spoken for, thanks to Team Penske’s Joey Logano taking the victory at the Round of 8 opener in Las Vegas. That leaves three spots open, and with Kyle Larson, who is already eliminated from the Playoffs, winning last weekend at Homestead-Miami, we know at least two of three spots will be claimed by drivers on points.

Already Clinched

The following driver has clinched a spot in the four-driver field of the next round: Joey Logano.

Can Clinch Via Points

If there is a repeat winner or a win by a driver who cannot advance to the next round, the following drivers could clinch by being ahead of the fourth winless driver in the standings. The same point requirements listed below would hold true if a new win comes from among Ross Chastain, Chase Elliott or William Byron.

  • Ross Chastain: Would clinch with 36 points
  • Chase Elliott: Would clinch with 45 points
  • William Byron: Would clinch with 51 points
  • Denny Hamlin: Could only clinch with help
  • Ryan Blaney: Could only clinch with help
  • Christopher Bell: Could only clinch with help
  • Chase Briscoe: Could only clinch with help

If there is a new winner from Denny Hamlin or another winless driver lower in the standings but still eligible to advance to the next round, the following drivers could clinch by being ahead of the third winless driver in the standings.

  • Ross Chastain: Would clinch with 41 points
  • Chase Elliott: Would clinch with 50 points
  • William Byron: Could only clinch with help
  • Denny Hamlin: Could only clinch with help
  • Ryan Blaney: Could only clinch with help
  • Christopher Bell: Could only clinch with help
  • Chase Briscoe: Could only clinch with help

Can Clinch Via Win

The following drivers would clinch on their win alone: Ross Chastain, Chase Elliott, William Byron, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Christopher Bell and Chase Briscoe.

NASCAR Cup Series Driver Playoff Outlook Following Homestead-Miami Speedway
Rank Driver Points Starts Race Wins Stage Wins Playoff Pts +/- Cutoff
1 Joey Logano 4,106 34 3 6 26 In On Wins
2 Ross Chastain 4,101 34 2 6 21 19
3 Chase Elliott 4,093 34 5 6 46 11
4 William Byron 4,087 34 2 4 15 5
5 Denny Hamlin 4,082 34 2 3 13 -5
6 Ryan Blaney 4,069 34 0 8 15 -18
7 Christopher Bell 4,054 34 2 4 18 -33
8 Chase Briscoe 4,043 34 1 4 9 -44
9 Kyle Larson 2,266 34 3 6 20 Eliminated From The Playoffs
10 Daniel Suarez 2,230 34 1 2 7
11 Austin Dillon 2,200 34 1 0 5
12 Tyler Reddick 2,195 34 3 2 17
13 Austin Cindric # 2,187 34 1 1 6
14 Kyle Busch 2,186 34 1 3 10
15 Alex Bowman 2,104 30 1 2 7
16 Kevin Harvick 2,064 34 2 0 12

Final chance for Playoff contenders to race their way into the Championship 4

Currently, Joey Logano is the only NASCAR Cup Series Playoff contender to secure his spot in the Championship 4 and did so by winning the first race in the Round of 8 at Las Vegas. It is the fifth-time in his career he has advanced the Playoffs’ final round (2014, 2016, 2018, 2020, 2022). That leaves just three spots up for grabs among the seven remaining Playoff challengers and since the introduction of the ‘elimination-style’ format in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs in 2014, racing your way into the Championship 4 Round in the ninth and final cutoff race of the Round of 8 has proven to be much more difficult than one might expect with only four drivers accomplishing the feat in the last eight seasons.

2014: Heading to Phoenix Raceway (the ninth race of the Playoffs) in 2014, Kevin Harvick was ranked eighth in the Playoff standings, six points back from NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon in the fourth and final transfer position to the Championship 4 Round. Kevin Harvick won the race at Phoenix and automatically advanced to the final round. Jeff Gordon finished runner-up, but it was not enough and was bounced out of the Playoffs. Harvick would go on to win his first NASCAR Cup Series title in 2014 by winning again the following weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the championship finale – it was the inaugural year of the elimination-style format in the postseason.

2015: The four drivers below the Championship 4 Round cutline heading into the ninth race of the 2015 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 8 elimination race at Phoenix Raceway – Carl Edwards (-7 points from Martin Truex Jr. in the fourth and final transfer position on points), Brad Keselowski (-19), Kurt Busch (-28) and Joey Logano (-63) – all failed to advance to the Championship 4 Round and were eliminated from the Playoffs following the Phoenix race. At Phoenix, Truex finished 14th, Logano finished third, Kurt Busch finished seventh, Keselowski finished ninth and Carl Edwards finished 12th.

2016: The four drivers below the Championship 4 Round cutline without a win heading into the ninth race of the 2016 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 8 elimination race at Phoenix Raceway – Matt Kenseth (-1 point from the cutoff), Denny Hamlin (-2), Kevin Harvick (-18) and Kurt Busch (-34) – all failed to advance to the Championship 4 Round and were eliminated from the Playoffs following the Phoenix race. At Phoenix, Harvick finished fourth, Kurt Busch finished fifth, Hamlin finished seventh and Matt Kenseth finished 21st.

2017: The four drivers below the Championship 4 Round cutline heading into the ninth race of the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 8 elimination race at Phoenix Raceway – Denny Hamlin (-19 points from the cutoff), Ryan Blaney (-22), Chase Elliott (-49) and Jimmie Johnson (-51) – all failed to advance to the Championship 4 and were eliminated from the Playoffs following the Phoenix race. At Phoenix, Elliott finished second, Blaney finished 17th, Hamlin finished 35th and Jimmie Johnson finished 39th.

2018: The four drivers below the Championship 4 Round cutline heading into the ninth race of the 2018 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 8 elimination race at Phoenix Raceway – Kurt Busch (-3 points from the cutoff), Chase Elliott (-17), Aric Almirola (-35) and Clint Bowyer (-51) – all failed to advance to the Championship 4 Round and were eliminated from the Playoffs following the Phoenix race. At Phoenix, Almirola finished fourth, Elliott finished 23rd, Kurt Busch finished 32nd and Clint Bowyer finished 35th.

2019: Heading to Phoenix Raceway (the ninth race of the Playoffs) in 2019, Denny Hamlin was ranked fifth in the Playoff standings, 20 points back from Joey Logano in the fourth and final transfer position to the Championship 4 Round. Denny Hamlin won the race at Phoenix and automatically advanced to the final round. Joey Logano finished ninth, but it was not enough and was eliminated from the Playoffs. Hamlin would go on to finish the season fourth in the championship standings.

2020: Heading to Martinsville Speedway (the ninth race of the Playoffs) in 2020, Joey Logano had secured his spot in the Championship 4 Round by winning at Kansas Speedway in the Round of 8 leaving three spots up for grabs. The drivers ranked below the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Championship 4 Round cutline were Alex Bowman (-25), Chase Elliott (-25), Martin Truex Jr. (-36) and Kurt Busch (-81). Chase Elliott would go on to win the Playoff race at Martinsville Speedway clinching his spot in the Championship 4 and bouncing Kevin Harvick (17th-place finish) out of the final round. Kurt Buch (fifth-place finish), Alex Bowman (sixth) and Martin Truex Jr. (22nd) all failed to make the Championship 4 Round and were eliminated from the Playoffs following Martinsville.

2021: Heading to Martinsville Speedway (the ninth race of the Playoffs) in 2021, Kyle Larson had secured his spot in the Championship 4 Round by winning at Kansas Speedway in the Round of 8 leaving three spots up for grabs. Kyle Busch was ranked in the fourth and final transfer positions on points, and the drivers ranked below the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Championship 4 Round cutline were Ryan Blaney (-1 point from the Championship 4 cutline), Martin Truex Jr. (-3) Brad Keselowski (-6) and Joey Logano (-26). Alex Bowman, a non-Playoff driver would win the Playoff race at Martinsville Speedway and Martin Truex Jr. would race his way into the Championship 4 Round by earning more stage points during the race and finishing fourth at Martinsville Speedway eliminating his teammate Kyle Busch from the postseason. Kyle Busch (runner-up finish), Ryan Blaney (11th-place finish), Brad Keselowski (third-place finish) and Joey Logano (10th-place finish) all failed to make the Championship 4 Round and were eliminated from the Playoffs following Martinsville.

A little more history on the NASCAR Cup Series at Martinsville

Opened in September 1947 by H. Clay Earles, Martinsville Speedway, originally a dirt track, is one of the oldest continuously-operating racetracks in the United States. The first NASCAR-sanctioned race at Martinsville Speedway was on July 4, 1948. The first NASCAR Cup Series race was on September 25, 1949 and the race was won by Red Byron in Raymond Park’s 1949 Oldsmobile.

The track has undergone several changes over the years, in 1955 the track was paved and the first 500-lap event at Martinsville Speedway was in 1956. Concrete corners were added atop the asphalt in 1976 and the track added LED lighting during the 2016-2017 offseason. In total, there have been 147 NASCAR Cup Series races at Martinsville Speedway, one race in the inaugural year and two races per year since 1950.

Over the years, 61 different drivers have won at least one pole at Martinsville Speedway in the NASCAR Cup Series, and 28 of the 61 have won multiple poles. NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip leads the series in poles at Martinsville Speedway with eight (1979, 1976, 1980, 1981, 1983, 1985, 1992). Five of the 61 NASCAR Cup Series Martinsville Speedway pole winners are active this weekend, led by Joey Logano with five Martinsville poles (2015 sweep, spring 2016, fall 2017, spring 2019).

Active Martinsville Pole Winners Poles Seasons
Joey Logano 5 2019, ’17, ’16, ’15 sweep
Denny Hamlin 4 2019, ’13, ’10, ’07
Kyle Busch 2 2018, ’14
Chase Elliott 1 2022
Martin Truex Jr 1 2016

A total of 56 different NASCAR Cup Series drivers have won a race at Martinsville Speedway, and 27 of the 56 different NASCAR Cup Series winners at Martinsville Speedway have won multiple times. NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty leads the NASCAR Cup Series in wins at Martinsville Speedway with 15 victories (1960, 1962, 1963, 1967 sweep, 1968, 1969 sweep, 1970, 1971, 1972 sweep, 1973, 1975, 1979). Eight of the 56 NASCAR Cup Series Martinsville Speedway race winners are active this weekend, led by Denny Hamlin with five Martinsville Cup Series victories (2008, 2009, 2010 sweep, 2015).

Active Martinsville Winners Wins Seasons
Denny Hamlin 5 2015, ’10 sweep, ’09, ’08
Martin Truex Jr 3 2021, ’20, ’19
Brad Keselowski 2 2019, ’17
Kyle Busch 2 2017, ’16
William Byron 1 2022
Chase Elliott 1 2020
Joey Logano 1 2018
Kevin Harvick 1 2011

Above The Cutline: Chastain, Elliott, Byron will look to hold on at Martinsville

The three drivers above the cutoff for the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Championship 4 Round – Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain (+19), and Hendrick Motorsports teammates Chase Elliott (+11) and William Byron (+5) – will have to be a their best this weekend at Martinsville Speedway to hold off the four drivers below the cutline vying for their positions.

Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain heads to Martinsville Speedway this weekend as the highest ranked driver not already locked into the Championship 4 Round with 19 points above the cutline. Chastain is looking to make the Championship 4 Round for the first-time in his career and in his first appearance in the Playoffs. The Florida native has made seven series starts at the Martinsville short track, posting one top five, one top 10 and an average finish of 24.3. He finished fifth at Martinsville earlier this season.

Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott arrives at Martinsville Speedway this weekend sitting 11 points above the Championship 4 Round cutline – the second largest cushion of points among the seven contenders vying for the remaining three spots. The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Champion and 2022 Regular Series Champion, Elliott, is on the hunt for his third consecutive career appearance in the Championship 4 Round (2020, 2021). And Elliott is no stranger to winning his way into the Championship 4 Round at Martinsville, as he accomplished the feat in 2020. In 14 career starts at 0.526-mile track, the Georgia native has made 14 series starts putting up one pole, one win (2020), five top fives and eight top 10s. His average finish at Martinsville is 13.4. He finished 10th at Martinsville earlier this season.

Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron is showing up to Martinsville with a lot of confidence this weekend, as he is the most recent winner at the 0.526-mile short track earlier this season. Byron is on a quest to earn a spot in the Championship 4 Round for the first-time in his Cup career and in his fourth appearance in the Playoffs. The North Carolina native has made nine starts at Martinsville Speedway collecting one win (2022), four top fives and five top 10s. His average finish at the Virginia short track 15.1.

Outside Looking In: Hamlin, Blaney, Bell, Briscoe have one shot left to make Championship 4 Round

It all comes down to this weekend at Martinsville Speedway and the Xfinity 500 (Sunday, Oct. 30 at 2 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) to decide who will move on and compete for the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series title at Phoenix Raceway on Nov. 6. Four drivers are facing elimination heading into this weekend – Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin (-5), Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney (-18), Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell (-33) and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe (-44) – and will have to battle it out to earn their spot in the Playoffs’ final round.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin is the postseason veteran of the four drivers below the Championship 4 Round cutline heading into this weekend at Martinsville Speedway, looking to make the final Playoff round for the fifth-time in his career (2014, 2019, 2020, 2021). Currently, five points back William Byron in the fourth and final transfer spot on points, if Hamlin or Bell do not make the Championship 4 Round this season it will be the first time since the inception of the elimination-style format in 2014 Joe Gibbs Racing has not occupied at least one spot in Championship 4. Fortunately for Joe Gibbs Racing and Denny Hamlin, Martinsville Speedway is one of his best tracks, and considered one of his home tracks. In 33 career Cup starts at the .526-mile short track, the Virginia native has accumulated four poles, five wins (most among active drivers), 16 top fives and 22 top 10s. His average finish at Martinsville is 10.7 – second only to Ryan Blaney’s 10.2 amongst Playoff contenders. Hamlin will look to rebound from his performance at Martinsville earlier this season where he finished 28th the last car on the lead lap.

Even with a decent points deficit to overcome to make the Championship 4 Round (-18 points), Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney heads to Martinsville Speedway knowing he has shot because he has run well at the 0.526-mile ‘paper-clip’ shaped track. Blaney is looking to make the Championship 4 Round for the first-time in his career and in his sixth appearance in the Playoffs. The North Carolina native has made 13 series starts at Martinsville Speedway posting six top fives and seven top 10s. He leads all eight remaining Playoff contenders in average finish at Martinsville with a 10.2, and he finished fourth there earlier this season.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell has been on a roller coaster of a Playoff run this season and facing elimination and overcoming the odds are not an issue for this young superstar. Bell won his way into the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 8 with a victory at Charlotte Road Course and this weekend heads to Martinsville Speedway in nearly the same circumstance, facing elimination (-33 points) with one race left to earn a spot in the next round. Bell is looking to make the Championship 4 Round for the first-time in his career and in just his second postseason appearance. In five series starts at Martinsville, Bell has amassed one top-10 finish and has an average finish of 17.4. He finished 20th at Martinsville earlier this season.

Facing a must-win situation, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe has nothing to lose and everything to gain. The Indiana native is buried in a deficit of points, 44 markers back from the Championship 4 Round cutline, and is looking to earn a spot in the Playoffs final round for the first-time in his first postseason appearance. Briscoe has made three career starts at Martinsville (the fewest among Playoff contenders) putting up one top-10 finish. His average finish at 0.526-mile short track is 19.3. He finished ninth at Martinsville early this season.

NASCAR Cup Series, Etc.

Chase Elliott’s record of fewest starts before earning a spot in the Champ 4 is in jeopardy – Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott currently holds the record for the fewest starts in the NASCAR Cup Series prior to earning a spot in the Championship 4 Round at 184 starts in 2020 championship season. But with several Playoff contenders making such deep dives into the postseason so early in their careers this year, Elliott’s record could be in jeopardy.

Currently, four drivers have the opportunity to become the driver with the fewest starts before making the Championship 4 and they are William Byron at 179 starts following Martinsville this weekend, Ross Chastain (150 starts), Christopher Bell (107 starts) and Chase Briscoe (71 starts).

NASCAR Cup Series Featured Matchups: Xfinity 500 – Below is a close look at the featured matchups fans can bet on heading into this weekend’s event.

Kyle Larson vs. Martin Truex Jr.

What a dominate race it was for Kyle Larson at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He led 199 laps en route to a victory. Despite no longer being in the Playoffs, Larson captured his first win at the 1.5-mile track With only two weeks left in the season, both Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson are out of the Driver Playoffs. But that hasn’t stopped them from racing hard and competing for wins down the stretch. This week we head to Martinsville, which has been historically known as one of Martin Truex Jr.’s best tracks. Watching these two competitors race with their teammates who are in the Playoffs will be one of the best parts of the race on Sunday.

Denny Hamlin vs. William Byron

The final spot in the Championship 4 Round could come down to Denny Hamlin and William Byron. Byron currently sits five points above Hamlin for the final spot, despite Hamlin finishing seventh and Byron finishing 14th at Homestead last weekend. Stage points were critical in Miami for Byron, who won the pole and finished second and third in Stage 1 and 2. Byron won earlier this year at Martinsville, and if he wins again, he won’t have to worry about the points. He has four top fives in his last seven races at Martinsville, while Hamlin has three. Back in his home state, Hamlin will be looking to run his best race of the season as he chases his elusive first championship.

Ross Chastain vs. Chase Elliott

Finishing second, Ross Chastain was unable to track down the best car in the field at Homestead-Miami as Kyle Larson took home the victory. Chase Elliott finished 14th, but both him and Chastain are in a good position heading into the final race before the season finale at Phoenix. Both guys need stage points and a solid finish, so that will be the goal as they push to point or win their way to Phoenix. This is also one of Elliott’s best tracks, as he has the highest driver rating in the field at 117.3 and won this Playoff race in 2020.

Christopher Bell vs. Ryan Blaney

It’s been a string of bad luck in the Round of 8 for both Christopher Bell and Ryan Blaney. Both Bell and Blaney had two of the best cars in Las Vegas, but Bell was taken out early and Blaney had an incident while in first place late in the race. Now, they both sit below the cutline. Blaney is only 18 points behind the cutline, so he could conceivably point his way to Phoenix. Bell is 33 points back, so he finds himself in a similar predicament to the Roval, where he won his way into the Round of 8. If either of these drivers want to ensure a spot in the Championship 4 Round, they might have to be the first to cross the finish line in Martinsville.

Cup Milestone Starts To Watch For This Season – Two drivers will be making milestone starts in the last two races of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season. This weekend at Martinsville Speedway, Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain will be making 150th NASCAR Cup Series career start. Then next weekend at Phoenix Raceway, Spire Motorsport’s Corey LaJoie will be making his 200th NASCAR Cup Series career start.

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