5 burning questions for Sunday’s Xfinity 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN)

Joey Logano won the first race of the Round of 8 at the Kansas Speedway. Kyle Busch though won Thursday night’s race at the Texas Motor Speedway which now means that as we head into Sunday’s Xfinity 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN) at the Martinsville (VA) Speedway, there’s still three spots open for the Championship 4 next weekend in Phoenix.

That should make this weekend’s cutoff race on the .526-mile short track rather interesting. Here’s the top five things to watch.

Will Chaos Ensue?

While the short track package is vastly better this year compared to last, I honestly don’t think we’re going to see too much chaos until the closing laps on Sunday. I can see a path to where the first couple of stages are going to be tame in nature.

Here’s why.

The other two short tracks run in the playoffs were tame and that’s because of what was at stake. Kurt Busch put it best for Bristol in the fact that no one can afford crash damage early by roughing someone up. Points matter too much.

Joey Logano during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 28, 2018 in Martinsville, Virginia.

With three spots available to the Championship 4, we know at least two of them will be rewarded on points. So, we will have points racing.

But, the points racing is going to be for those three currently holding onto them. The other four on the outside looking in likely can’t make the Championship 4 on points. They’re all 25 or more points out. It would be historic to make up 25 points in one race and to advance.

Plus, look at who they’re trying to make 25 points up on.

Brad Keselowski has nine straight top 10 finishes at Martinsville including eight of those in the top five. Good luck making 25 points up on him.

Then you have Denny Hamlin who has three top five finishes in his last four Martinsville starts. He’s 27 points up on the bubble.

So, for Chase Elliott (-25), Alex Bowman (-25), Martin Truex Jr. (-36) and Kurt Busch (-81), it’s all win or nothing.

That’s why I don’t expect Sunday’s race to get wild until the end. Why would the four on the outside looking in care about stage points? Why would they risk putting their cars in compromising positions and potentially get damage? They need to win in the end, so why not position yourself for the final stage?

Same for the guys in the top three then. They know that if the other four concede stage points, then they should just not rough each other up and take the points as they come.

As a result, expect the first 300-350 laps to run somewhat tame. Then, the final 150 laps, watch out. It’s going to be elbows up, rough racing because those guys below the cut line have to win.

Will Chevrolet Get Shutout of Championship 4 Again?

Chevy entered the Round 8 with three of the eight drivers vying for the championship. As we head to the final race of the round, all three are below the cutline. Can any of them move their ways back up?

We didn’t know it then, but when Jimmie Johnson won the 2016 NASCAR Cup Series championship, it would be Chevrolet’s last. Over the last four years now, not only has Chevy not had a title, they have failed to make the Championship 4 even. Does that continue on Sunday?

Elliott, does have five top 10 finishes in his last seven Martinsville starts and five top sevens in his last seven starts on the season too.

Bowman, has never scored a top five at Martinsville before but was sixth this past June and has a pair of top fives in his last two races run on the season and eight top 10’s in his last 10 starts overall.

Busch, only has two top fives in his last 17 races run on the year and no top fives at Martinsville since his 2014 win.

Elliott appears to be their best shot.

Will Hamlin/Harvick Get Shutout Of Victory Lane In The Round of 8?

Who would have thought that Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick would be shutout of victory lane in the Round of 8. But, here we are with neither having won a race this round and combining for just three of them in eight playoff races.

Harvick, hasn’t won since the Round of 16 and only has four top five finishes in his last 10 starts on the season. He’s also only had two top fives in his last 16 starts at Martinsville, so it appears that Harvick may get to the Championship 4 since he’s +42 up right now, without a win in either of the second or third rounds.

Hamlin, has one win in his last 10 starts and was 20th at Martinsville in June. He’s also only scored two top fives during the playoffs too.

There’s a good chances that both get shutout this round.

Did Toyota Improve Their June Debacle In Martinsville?

Toyota has been fantastic at Martinsville in the past. But, the June race there this past year had the manufacturer shaking their heads. In fact, this was the point to where they finally acknowledged something was up and that they had to turn it around quickly.

Yes, Martin Truex Jr. won the race, but the other three drivers finished 19th, 20th and 24th respectively. They were non factors all race.

Now, they need to turn things around.

Truex, has to win in order to make it to the Championship 4. He’s 36 points below the cutline. Hamlin, is {27 but only two points ahead of Brad Keselowski. If Keselowski finishes ahead of Hamlin on Sunday, which he has eight top five finishes in his last nine Martinsville starts, then Hamlin could fall to the fourth spot in the standings.

If Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman or Kurt Busch win on Sunday and Hamlin falls to fourth, then he’s out and so is Truex.

Hamlin, finished 20th and was a non factor at Martinsville in June. Toyota has to turn things around at Martinsville on Sunday. They finished 1-2-3 at Texas on Thursday, so the potential is there.

Non Playoff Winner?

We had one this past Thursday in Texas, can we go 2-for-3 in the Round of 8? Kevin Harvick has two top fives in his last 16 Martinsville starts. Denny Hamlin was 20th in June and one win in his last 10 starts on the season. Brad Keselowski has two top fives in his last 13 races in 2020. None of these three have won this round.

The door is open.

Alex Bowman has never finished in the top five at Martinsville before. Kurt Busch has no top fives there since 2014. Chase Elliott and Martin Truex Jr. have shots, but can they win?

If not, then this opens the door for someone else.

Busch is coming off of a win and has eight top five finishes in his last 10 starts at Martinsville. He has a pair of top five finishes this round and six top sevens in eight playoff races. He’s not championship eligible.

Neither is Ryan Blaney who has four top five finishes in his last five Martinsville starts too. He was runner-up this past June. On the season, Blaney has four top seven finishes in his last five starts.

Either can win Sunday’s race.

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