Last week in Kansas, there were seven drivers competing for the final three spots in the Championship 4. Then, Kyle Larson, who already punched his ticket, won at Kansas and prevented another driver from clinching automatically.
So that means this week at Martinsville, there’ll yet again be seven drivers competing for just the final three spots in the Championship 4. The race for the second and third spot in the standings is separated by just two points between Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin. However, they have a comfortable lead — 31 points — over the current fourth place driver, Kyle Busch.
But while Busch has the lead for the fourth place spot right now, he too is locked in a close race. Just six points separate the field’s seventh place driver (Brad Keselowski, 4,068 points) and it’s fourth place driver (Busch, 4,074 points).
Any one of those drivers could make the point differential moot with a win, though Larson’s won three races in a row, including the last two Round of 8 races. Otherwise, another Larson win means it’ll come down to points and a lot of drivers will need everything to go their way.
Martin Truex Jr., who currently sits at sixth in the standings, won last time out at Martinsville in April. He beat out Denny Hamlin after passing him with 16 laps to go to take the lead, never giving it up. If he can repeat, then he’ll clinch a spot automatically, otherwise it’ll be up to the field.
Sporting News is tracking live updates and highlights from the XFinity 500 at Martinsville. Follow along below for updates throughout.
NASCAR at Martinsville live updates, highlights from Xfinity 500
2:10 p.m.: Denny Hamlin, who’s won here five times, is starting in 37th place after failing inspection twice this morning. Hamlin has a 31 point lead for fourth.
2:04 p.m.: Engines are fired and things are about to get interesting.
2:01 p.m.: Action slated to get underway in about 10 minutes. Here’s a look at the points race heading in.
NASCAR start time today
The green flag for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race on Martinsville Speedway’s 0.526-mile short track is scheduled to drop at 2:12 p.m. ET Sunday. The track has lights, so the race can finish after sunset if there is a delay.
Weather conditions should ensure an on-time start. The National Weather Service forecast for Ridgeway, Va., where Martinsville Speedway is located, is for mostly sunny skies and a high temperature near 65 degrees. Winds could gust as high as 20 mph, however.
NASCAR playoff standings
The bubble drivers figure to produce the most drama Sunday. Positions 4 through 7 are separated by six points. Kyle Busch is in the No. 4 spot but he’s just one point ahead of Ryan Blaney, the first driver out at the moment. The live standings will be volatile.
Elliott (34 points) and Hamlin (32 points) come into the race with sizable leads over Blaney as they sit in second and third in the standings, respectively.
Aside from the closeness of the standings, there’s another reason the four drivers below can have hope: A playoff driver who wins a race in the Round of 8 automatically qualifies for the Championship 4 race Nov. 7 at Phoenix Raceway. Problem is, only Larson has won a race thus far in the Round of 8.
x-Advanced to Championship 4 race.
NASCAR starting lineup at Martinsville
Here is the complete starting lineup for Sunday’s playoff race at Martinsville Speedway, the Xfinity 500.
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