The elimination race at Martinsville ended the Round of Eight for the NASCAR Playoffs. The Xfinity 500 produced drama and set the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Four.
When the race started Kyle Larson was the only driver locked in the Championship Four with a chance to win the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Championship. Seven other drivers knew if they won the race they would lock themselves in that round as well. That meant at least two spots would be filled based on points.
Through the first stage of the race Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott appeared to be the two cars that would compete to win the Martinsville Grandfather Clock trophy. Chase was able to score the win in that stage.
In the second stage Chase made the statement that he was the car to beat to win the race. He was the winner of that stage as well. That locked Chase in the Championship Four based on points with his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson.
Throughout the race cars were beating and banging on each other (as they always do when NASCAR goes short trackin’). That caused some drama. As the race got closer to the end, the intensity increased. That meant more on track incidents.
Brad Keselowski began racing harder to get toward the front with a chance to win and advance to the Championship Four. During that hard racing Brad ended up spinning Chase out. That pretty much ended any chance Chase had at winning the race. That incident may create more drama down the road between the two.
Denny Hamlin was able to take the lead as the laps continued to wind down. Alex Bowman had been near the front all race long. Alex was racing Denny for the lead when he bumped him. That caused Denny to slide up the track and Alex took the lead. However, Alex moved over to give the lead back to Denny since he didn’t pass him cleanly.
Alex continued chasing Denny and trying to pass him cleanly. With just a handful of laps left Alex went low under Denny and got loose. That caused him to slide up and bump Denny. Denny spun out bringing out the caution. Denny fell way back in the running order making it impossible for Alex to give the lead back to Denny.
That caution caused the race to go to a green-white-checkered, overtime finish. Alex was able to hold the lead for the restart and final two laps to get his first NASCAR Cup Series win at Martinsville Speedway. It was his fourth win of the 2021 season.
Denny Hamlin took exception with the incident between him and Alex Bowman. He let Alex know he was not happy by blocking him from doing a victory burnout after the race.
Kyle Busch finished the race in second place. Brad Keselowski claimed third place. Martin Truex Jr. took home fourth place with William Byron rounded out the top five. See the complete race results for the Xfinity 500 here.
Following the race at Martinsville Speedway it will be a competition between Hendrick Motorsports (HMS) and Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Championship. The Championship Four drivers are: Kyle Larson (HMS), Chase Elliott (HMS), Denny Hamlin (JGR) and Martin Truex Jr. (JGR). See the complete NASCAR Cup Series point standings here.
The first one of those drivers to cross the finish line in the NASCAR Cup Series Championship race at Phoenix Raceway this Sunday, November 7th will win the championship.
By: Buck Stevens