NASCAR Preview: Martinsville

Story posted October 29, 2022 in CommRadio, Sports by Kasey Kreider

It’s crunch time in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, as just two races remain in one of the wildest and most unpredictable seasons in NASCAR history.

Entering Martinsville on Sunday afternoon, eight drivers will still have a shot to become NASCAR’s newest champion. The field will be whittled down to the final four after Sunday’s event, with those four competitors moving on to compete in the winner-take-all finale at Phoenix.

One of the eight playoff drivers already has a spot assured for the championship finale, as Joey Logano earned a golden ticket straight through to Phoenix with his win at Las Vegas.

Last weekend at Homestead-Miami, Kyle Larson, a non-playoff competitor, scored victory. That means that three spots are still on offer and to be determined after 500 grueling laps on the Virginia half-mile.

This will be the third straight season that Martinsville has served as the Round of 8 finale, as it served as the opening race of the Round of 8 from the current playoff format’s inception in 2014 through the 2019 season.

In the 2020 edition of the event, Chase Elliott entered the race in essentially a must-win situation to keep his playoff hopes alive. Not only was Elliott able to win at Martinsville, but he followed that win up with the victory at Phoenix to claim his first Cup title.

Last year’s edition of the race saw a controversial finish, as Alex Bowman spun playoff contender Denny Hamlin while battling for the win in the late laps. Despite still advancing to the Championship 4, Hamlin was none too pleased as the Hendrick Motorsports driver celebrated his win post-race.

Even in years prior, the Martinsville playoff race has never been short on drama, as altercations in recent years between Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano in 2015, Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin in 2017, and Hamlin and Logano in 2019 are all engraved in Martinsville lore.

So with that backstory in mind, the stage for Sunday sets up like this: Ross Chastain, Chase Elliott, and William Byron enter the event in the last three spots to transfer to the Championship 4.

On the outside looking in are Denny Hamlin and Ryan Blaney, who could each feasibly point their way into the top four, along with Christopher Bell and Chase Briscoe, who likely only have a path to the final four through winning on Sunday.

For Chastain, his breakout Cup Series season is in position to end with a Championship 4 berth following a second-place finish in each of the first two races of the round. However, nothing is assured yet, as he only enters 19 points above the cutoff line.

In 2014, Jeff Gordon finished second in two of the three Round of eight races, but a 29th-place finish at Texas led to him missing the final four by one point.

If there are any drivers that should feel confident entering Martinsville, it’s Elliott and Byron, as those two drivers dominated the night race in the spring, with Byron claiming the win.

But Hamlin is always potent at one of his home race tracks, as he boasts five grandfather clocks from wins at the speedway.

Blaney is the only driver still remaining in the playoffs without a victory this year, and will look to pick up a timely one Sunday to lock into his first Championship 4. And while the task is daunting for Bell and Briscoe to win and get in, the No. 20 team in particular is no stranger to performing under pressure. Bell scored the victory at the Charlotte Roval in almost the exact same situation he finds himself in now to ensure he would make the Round of 8.

The drama is sure to be high, and when the grandfather clock strikes midnight following Sunday’s event, only four drivers will remain to chase the dream of winning a championship.


Kasey Kreider is a second-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email