Who Wins Sunday’s Xfinity 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN) a look at what’s at stake Sunday in Martinsville

Race Day Schedule

7 am: Garage Opens

1:20 pm: Drivers To Cars

1:25 pm: Driver Intros

1:55 pm: Invocation

1:56 pm: National Anthem

2:03 pm: Command

2:12 pm: Green Flag


Race Details

Coverage: 2 p.m. ET

Green Flag: 2:12 p.m. ET

TV: NBC

Radio: MRN

Computer: NASCAR.com

Phone: NASCAR App

Race Distance: 500 Laps/263 Miles

Stage Lengths: 130-130-240

Competition Caution: Lap 25

Race Official: Lap 250

Playoffs: Round 3, Race 3

Track: Martinsville Speedway


Starting Lineup


Who Wins Sunday’s Xfinity 500?

Non playoff drivers have been so stout over the last several weeks too. William Byron, Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Kevin Harvick have been en fuego and on the verge of a playoff victory. The thing is, with what’s at stake in each of the next two weeks, I don’t see either winning this week or next though.

That’s because a non playoff driver isn’t going to win Phoenix. Since this formats inception in 2014, the Championship 4 drivers are a perfect 7-for-7 in winning the season finale. For Martinsville?

Just twice has a non-Playoff drivers have won the Playoff race at Martinsville Speedway:

o   In 2005, Jeff Gordon was ranked 15th in the points at the time of his Playoff win at Martinsville.

o   In 2014, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was 11th in points at the time of the win. Earnhardt Jr. had made the Playoffs in 2014 but was eliminated in the Round of 12.

So, you can pretty much focus on the eight drivers still championship eligible now. Which ones? Lets dive deeper.

Kyle Larson is the only one not sweating it out this Sunday. He’s won twice this round and automatically into the Championship 4. That’s good because despite starting on the pole for Sunday’s race, he has one top five at Martinsville in his last eight starts.

The rest of the drivers are still fighting for a spot into the final round in Phoenix. In saying that, Chase Elliott (+34) and Denny Hamlin (+32) are also in good shape though. Stage points in each stage and a top 10 finish would easily suffice for both.

Kevin Harvick was +42 though and didn’t make it last year while Elliott who was 25 points below the cutline did. That’s because Harvick isn’t very good at Martinsville and Elliott won the race. If someone below the cutline wins the race on Sunday, the one they’ll bump out is Kyle Busch who’s only +1.

See the difference?

The thing is, Elliott (3 top 2’s in last 5 at Martinsville) and Hamlin (276 laps led in a 3rd place run in April) are likely the two favorites. They finished second and third respectively back in the spring race. But, how much do they push the issue at the end of the Xfinity 500 or just ride it out to get top 10 points?

The drivers below them all have to be aggressive which is why I sense we’re not only going to be a playoff driver winning on Sunday, but it’s going to be one of the five trying to push their ways in.

Three of the last four Fall race winners here?

Kyle Busch (2017)

Joey Logano (2018)

Martin Truex Jr. (2019)

They make up three of the bottom five in points. If you go back to 2014 though, we’ve had seven straight different winners of this race. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2014), Jeff Gordon (2015), Jimmie Johnson (2016) and Chase Elliott (2020) make up the rest. All four Hendrick drivers.

JGR and Penske have also put four cars in the top five of the finishing order in three of the last five Martinsville races and have won six of the last seven there too overall if counting the spring race in this. Coincidentally enough, we have three spots left to make it to the final round next week and three of the seven drivers battling for them are JGR-Penske drivers.

The only other team worth watching is Hendrick Motorsports. If you throw them into this equation, you get eight of the top 10 finishers from last year’s June race belonging from Penske, JGR and HMS. They went 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 this past April and took five of the top six in this race last year.

So, will anyone new bump their ways in? It happened in 2014 but didn’t again in any of the next four years. The last two though it did occur. Will it on Sunday? The only three drivers to bump their ways in, all won the Round of 8 finale to do so as none advance their ways back in on points.

2014: Heading to Phoenix Raceway (the ninth race of the Playoffs) in 2014, Kevin Harvick was ranked eighth in the Playoff standings, six points back from NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon in the fourth and final transfer position to the Championship 4 Round. Kevin Harvick won the race at Phoenix and automatically advanced to the final round. Jeff Gordon finished runner-up, but it wasn’t enough and was bounced out of the Playoffs. Harvick would go on to win his first NASCAR Cup Series title in 2014.

2015: The four drivers below the Championship 4 Round cutline heading into the ninth race of the 2015 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 8 elimination race at Phoenix Raceway – Carl Edwards (-7 points from cutoff), Brad Keselowski (-19), Kurt Busch (-28) and Joey Logano (-63) – all failed to advance to the Championship 4 and were eliminated from the Playoffs following the Phoenix race. At Phoenix, Logano finished third, Kurt Busch finished seventh, Keselowski finished ninth and Carl Edwards finished 12th.

2016: The four drivers below the Championship 4 Round cutline without a win heading into the ninth race of the 2016 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 8 elimination race at Phoenix Raceway – Matt Kenseth (-1 point from the cutoff), Denny Hamlin (-2), Kevin Harvick (-18) and Kurt Busch (-34) – all failed to advance to the Championship 4 and were eliminated from the Playoffs following the Phoenix race. At Phoenix, Harvick finished fourth, Kurt Busch finished fifth, Hamlin finished seventh and Matt Kenseth finished 21st.

2017: The four drivers below the Championship 4 Round cutline heading into the ninth race of the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 8 elimination race at Phoenix Raceway – Denny Hamlin (-19 points from the cutoff), Ryan Blaney (-22), Chase Elliott (-49) and Jimmie Johnson (-51) – all failed to advance to the Championship 4 and were eliminated from the Playoffs following the Phoenix race. At Phoenix, Elliott finished second, Blaney finished 17th, Hamlin finished 35th and Jimmie Johnson finished 39th.

2018: The four drivers below the Championship 4 Round cutline heading into the ninth race of the 2018 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 8 elimination race at Phoenix Raceway – Kurt Busch (-3 points from the cutoff), Chase Elliott (-17), Aric Almirola (-35) and Clint Bowyer (-51) – all failed to advance to the Championship 4 Round and were eliminated from the Playoffs following the Phoenix race. At Phoenix, Almirola finished fourth, Elliott finished 23rd, Kurt Busch finished 32nd and Clint Bowyer finished 35th.

2019: Heading to Phoenix Raceway (the ninth race of the Playoffs) in 2019, Denny Hamlin was ranked fifth in the Playoff standings, 20 points back from Joey Logano in the fourth and final transfer position to the Championship 4 Round. Denny Hamlin won the race at Phoenix and automatically advanced to the final round. Joey Logano finished ninth, but it wasn’t enough and was tossed out of the Playoffs. Hamlin would go on to finish the season fourth in the championship standings.

2020: Heading to Martinsville Speedway (the ninth race of the Playoffs) in 2020, Joey Logano had secured his spot in the Championship 4 Round by winning at Kansas Speedway in the Round of 8 leaving three spots up for grabs. The drivers ranked below the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Championship 4 Round cutline were Alex Bowman (-25), Chase Elliott (-25), Martin Truex Jr. (-36) and Kurt Busch (-81). Chase Elliott would go on to win the Playoff race at Martinsville Speedway clinching his spot in the Championship 4 and bouncing Kevin Harvick (17th-place finish) out of the final round. Kurt Buch (fifth-place finish), Alex Bowman (sixth) and Martin Truex Jr. (22nd) all failed to make the Championship 4 Round and were eliminated from the Playoffs following Martinsville.

Also, will the winner on Sunday win the championship next Sunday in Phoenix too?

Seven times the winner of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Martinsville Speedway has gone on to win the title that same season – the most of any track on the Playoff schedule. In fact, it occurred just last year for the 2nd time in a three year span as well as three times in the last five years. 

o   In 2006, Jimmie Johnson won from the ninth starting position at Martinsville Speedway and went on to win his first of seven NASCAR Cup Series championships. It was only win during the 2006 Playoffs.

o   In 2007, Jimmie Johnson won from the fourth starting position at Martinsville Speedway and went on to win his second consecutive NASCAR Cup Series championship. The Playoff victory was the first of a record setting four straight postseason wins during the 2007 Playoffs (Martinsville, Atlanta, Texas and Phoenix).

o   In 2008, Jimmie Johnson won from the first starting position at Martinsville Speedway (Qualifying was cancelled) and went on to win his third consecutive NASCAR Cup Series championship. The win was his second of three victories during the 2008 Playoffs.

o   In 2011, Tony Stewart won from the fourth starting position at Martinsville Speedway and went on to win his third NASCAR Cup Series championship. The win was one of a record setting five Playoff victories for Stewart during the 2011 postseason. 

o   In 2016, Jimmie Johnson won from the third starting position at Martinsville Speedway and went on to win his record tying seventh NASCAR Cup Series championship. The win was his second of three Playoff victories during the 2016 postseason.

o   In 2018, Joey Logano won from the 10th starting position at Martinsville Speedway and went on to win his first NASCAR Cup Series championship.

o   In 2020, Chase Elliott won from the eighth starting position at Martinsville Speedway and went on to win his first NASCAR Cup Series championship.

Also, five times the winner of the ninth race in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs has gone on to win the title that same season. But, in saying the stat above, the Martinsville-Phoenix two-step only moved to the final two races of the year just last season. They’re 1-for-1 in producing this feat. But, prior to that, in this playoff era that began in 2004, only five times in 17 years did a playoff driver win the final two races of a season and only twice in the seven years of this new format did someone win both the penultimate race as well as the final race to take a championship. 

o   In 2007, Jimmie Johnson won from the sixth starting position at Phoenix Raceway and went on to win his second consecutive NASCAR Cup Series championship. The Playoff victory was the fourth of a record setting four straight postseason wins during the 2007 Playoffs (Martinsville, Atlanta, Texas and Phoenix).

o   In 2008, Jimmie Johnson won from the pole at Phoenix Raceway and went on to win his third consecutive NASCAR Cup Series championship. The win was his third of three victories during the 2008 Playoffs.

o   In 2009, Jimmie Johnson won from the third starting position at Phoenix Raceway and went on to win his fourth consecutive NASCAR Cup Series championship. The victory was his fourth during the 2009 postseason.

o   In 2014, Kevin Harvick won from the third starting position at Phoenix Raceway and went on to win his first NASCAR Cup Series championship. The win was his second of three Playoff victories during the 2014 postseason.

o   In 2020, Chase Elliott won from the eighth starting position at Martinsville Speedway and went on to win his first NASCAR Cup Series championship. The win was his second of three Playoff victories during the 2020 postseason.

Who Wins?

  1. 19 Truex Jr. – He’s won 3 of the last 4 races at Martinsville and in the one he didn’t win, he led 129 laps.
  2. 22 Logano – 6 top 8’s in his last 7 at Martinsville. On short tracks this season, Logano was second in Phoenix, sixth here in the spring, third in Richmond, fifth at Dover, fourth in Loudon, fifth in Richmond and 11th at Bristol.
  3. 12 Blaney – He has 4 top 5’s in his last 5 races at Martinsville.
  4.  9 Elliott – I think he plays it safe in the end. He does have 4 top 5’s in his last 5 at Martinsville too.
  5. 11 Hamlin – He’s among the best on short tracks this season. He’s had four top five results in his last six Martinsville tries including what should have been a win in the spring. Hamlin, was third in Phoenix and here, runner-up in both races at Richmond, seventh at Dover and 10th in New Hampshire and ninth at Bristol on short tracks this season.

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