NASCAR’s cutoff race to determine the drivers vying for a Cup championship is Sunday at Martinsville Speedway. The Xfinity 500 is at 2 p.m. on NBC.
Kyle Larson is the only driver locked into the Championship 4. He won the previous three races at Kansas, Texas and the Charlotte Roval, and he’s looking to sweep the Round of 8 as others aim to lock themselves in with a win or enough points.
Chase Elliott is 34 points above the cut in the standings, while Denny Hamlin sits at plus-32. Kyle Busch is one point above the four-driver cutoff heading into this weekend’s race. Ryan Blaney is one point below, joining Martin Truex Jr. (minus-3), Brad Keselowski (minus-6) and Joey Logano (minus-26) as those on the outside looking in.
“You know it’s gonna get intense,” Blaney said. “Last year it came down to one or two spots for the last team to get in and it’s probably gonna be that way this year.”
Blaney advanced to the Round of 8 in 2017 and 2019, but he’s seeking his first Championship 4 berth and is in his best position yet to clinch it. He had five top-five finishes in 11 races at the track, including two second-place finishes in the last three races there.
Martin Truex Jr. has the latest win at Martinsville and is the favorite to win again Sunday, according to BetMGM. The sports betting site has Truex at +400 over Hamlin (+600), Elliott (+650), Larson (+650), Blaney (+700), Keselowski (+800), Logano (+800) and Busch (+900). Elliott won last year’s race to secure a spot in the title event, which he went on to win. Hamlin has the most playoff wins at the track with two postseason victories in 2009 and 2010.
NASCAR AT MARTINSVILLE PREDICTIONS
Truex had speed at Martinsville earlier this year, but the No. 19 Toyota team’s recent performances give me pause. I predict he’ll be a factor and lap leader, but I’m going with Hamlin for the win. Hamlin finished third at Martinsville in the spring and his No. 11 Toyota team has averaged a fifth-place finish through the playoffs. If Elliott can avoid disaster, he also looks like a safe bet to again make the Championship 4 with the battle for the final spot playing out between Truex and Blaney. History gives the advantage to Truex, but I’ll make a bold prediction and say it’ll be Blaney’s breakthrough race (he did lead the second-most laps at Martinsville behind Hamlin in the spring despite his 11th place finish). But it’s Martinsville. It’s the final cutoff race. The points battle is tight. And just one thing is for certain: Anything can happen.
HOW TO WATCH NASCAR AT MARTINSVILLE CUP RACE
- Race: Xfinity 500
- Distance: 263 miles (500 laps) with stages ending on laps 130, 260 and 500
- Where: Martinsville Speedway
- When: Sunday, Oct. 31 at 2 p.m. EST
- TV: NBC
- Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
NASCAR AT MARTINSVILLE STARTING LINEUP
|4||Martin Truex Jr.||19|
|25||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||47|