Ryan Blaney did more than he needed at Martinsville Speedway in order to make the 2023 NASCAR Championship Four.
The Xfinity 500 was the elimination race in the Round of 8. The four drivers in the Playoffs with the lowest point total and no win in the round would be eliminated from championship contention following the race. Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell won the first two races in the Round of 8. That meant they were locked in the Championship Four. That left Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin, William Byron, Tyler Reddick, Martin Truex Jr. and Chris Buescher to battle it out for the final two spots.
Chris Buescher never really showed any potential of challenging for the win or enough points to advance at any point of the race. Tyler Reddick needed a great day and some help or a win to advance. He never really looked as though he would get either of those.
Martin Truex Jr. looked like he could have a chance at contending for the win to advance. He even finished in third place in the first stage of the race. However, a mistake he made speeding as he left pit road put him back in the field. That mistake was compounded by another mistake by his crew on another stop. Those missteps essentially took the Regular Season Champion out of position to have a chance to advance for a chance to win the overall 2023 Championship.
William Byron was not having a great day. He didn’t need to. The driver with the most wins in 2023 just needed to have a good day, as long as Denny Hamlin did not win the race. That would keep him above Denny in the points and he would advance.
When the race started, mathematically Denny did not have to win the race to advance. He would need to have William Byron finish far enough behind him to allow him to advance. It became obvious during the race that Denny WOULD have to win to advance because of William improving his car and position in the running order. Denny won stage one of the race and led the most laps in the race with 156 laps out front.
Ryan Blaney did not need to win the race to advance. He had enough points that as long as he had a good day, he would make the Championship Four. However, just like all race car drivers, it was pretty obvious that since he was in the race, Ryan wanted to win. He was able to win stage two of the race. He was the second on the laps led list at 145 laps as the leader.
Late in the race it looked as though Aric Almirola could win the race as he took the lead and held it for 66 laps. Ryan Blaney was able to race forward and regain the lead with 23 laps remaining. Ryan kept the lead for those final 23 laps to win his first Cup Series race at Martinsville. It was his second win in the 2023 NASCAR Playoffs and third win in the 2023 season. This was Ryan tenth career Cup Series win. More importantly, the win advances him to the Championship Four for next week’s “winner-take-all” Championship Race with some momentum.
Aric Almirola finished in second-place. Denny Hamlin claimed third-place. See the complete race results for the Xfinity 500 at Martinsville Speedway here.
Denny Hamlin had a really good day at Martinsville, but needed a great day to advance. His finish in third was not enough to overtake William Byron in the points. William was able to have a good enough day to be the fourth and final driver to advance to the Championship Four.
Ryan Blaney, Christopher Bell, Kyle Larson and William Byron now sit at the top of the point standings. See the complete 2023 NASCAR Cup Series point standings here.
The final race of 2023 is the NASCAR Cup Series Championship at Phoenix Raceway Sunday, November 5th.
By: Buck Stevens