NASCAR Preview – Martinsville Kicks off Round Three of Playoffs
by Kent Whitaker Scores & Statson
Four drivers were eliminated from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs last weekend! Kansas was the final race of Round Two and Brad Keselowski, Alex Bowman, Ryan Blaney, and Kyle Larson all missed the cut. The field of 16 drivers contending for the Cup Series Championship has been narrowed to eight as Round Three kicks off at Martinsville. And, as might be expected, Kyle Busch is the heavy favorite heading into the First Data 500.
There’s not much to argue with oddsmakers about the numbers as Busch comes in at +275. The driver of the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing has two wins at the track known as the “paper clip” in his Cup Series career. What’s even more impressive is the fact that he’s finished in the top five, with two wins, in his last five races there.
Busch is not the only driver that’s had success at Martinsville over the last several seasons. In fact, three of the top-five favored drivers have wins at the track. Clint Bowyer won the race there earlier this season and Brad Keselowski won the Spring race last year. Here are the top-five favored drivers at Intertops for Martinsville.
Martin Truex Jr
Will the Old Martinsville Show Up?
Earlier this season something unexpected happened at Martinsville. It was a tame race when compared to many of the races run at the track known for its bumping and banging. Now, with the Playoffs in full swing, the action may return as only eight drivers remain in the hunt for the Championship Run. After Round Three, four more drivers will be eliminated with only four battling for the Cup during the last race of the season at Homestead – Miami.
Of the above drivers, there’s one that’s already out. Keselowski fell below the cut-line last week at Kansas following a three-win stretch towards the end of the regular season. Keselowski could be the spoiler for drivers still in the Championship battle as he’s one of the few Ford drivers to have a win there in the last ten races. The only other Blue Oval driver with a win at Martinsville is Clint Bowyer who won the Spring race.
Both of those drivers, along with Busch are not afraid to put the nose of their cars to the back-quarter panel to move someone out of the way. And, Chase Elliott has shown more and more that he’s willing to push back against other drivers that bump him. Chances are the action will heat up as NASCAR returns to the series shortest and oldest track.
Manufacturer Wins at Martinsville
Keselowski and Bowyer hold a piece of history at Martinsville. They are the only Ford drivers to have won at the track since 2002 when Kurt Busch captured the Checkered Flag. Jimmie Johnson lead the Chevrolet drivers with nine wins at Martinsville. He’s gone back-to-back twice and won three in a row in 2006-2007 at the track. Toyota has managed to squeeze in a few recent wins courtesy of Busch and Denny Hamlin. However, over the last twenty races, Ford has two wins, Toyota has six and Chevy has captured the remaining twelve checkered flags.
Playoff Standings Heading into Martinsville
Currently, there are eight drivers still eligible for winning the Cup Series Championship. Eight drivers have been eliminated. Chase Elliott is at the top of the pack with two of three wins during Round Two. Aric Almirola also won in Round Two with Kevin Harvick rounding out the top-five due to the number of stage points he’s racked up.
1. Chase Elliott
In with 2 WINS
2. Aric Almirola
In with WIN
3. Kevin Harvick
4. Kyle Busch
5. Joey Logano
6. Kurt Busch
7. Clint Bowyer
8. Martin Truex Jr.
Eliminated from Playoffs
9. Brad Keselowski
10. Ryan Blaney
11. Kyle Larson
12. Alex Bowman
13. Jimmie Johnson
14. Austin Dillon
15. Denny Hamlin
16. Erik Jones
Additional Martinsville Odds
Ricky Stenhouse Jr
NASCAR Weekend Viewing Guide:
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and The Camping World Truck Series are both racing at Martinsville this weekend. The NASCAR Xfinity Series is off this weekend. All times are Eastern.
Friday, Oct. 26
• 12:05 – 12:55 p.m. – Truck practice (No TV) • 2:05 – 2:55 p.m. – Final Truck practice (No TV)
Saturday, Oct. 27
• 9 – 9:50 a.m. – Cup practice (CNBC, Motor Racing Network) • 10:05 a.m – Truck qualifying; multi-track/three rounds (Fox Sports 1) • 11:30 a.m. – 12:20 p.m. – Final Cup practice (CNBC, MRN) • 12:30 p.m. – Truck driver introductions • RACE - 1 p.m. – Truck Series Texas Roadhouse 200; 200 laps/105.2 miles (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) • 4:05 p.m. – Cup qualifying; multi-car/three rounds (NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
Sunday, Oct. 28
• RACE - 2:30 p.m. – First Data 500; 500 laps/263 miles (NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)