By Bob Pockrass
FOX Sports activities NASCAR Author
The seven drivers competing for the three remaining spots to vie for the NASCAR Cup Collection championship can take totally different approaches to incomes these spots.
However the consensus is that they’ll all should do one factor this weekend at Martinsville Speedway: They have to qualify nicely Saturday.
This season’s 400-lap race on the 0.526-mile, paper-clip oval had simply 5 lead modifications all the race. Drivers will go 500 laps (at the least) Sunday, and NASCAR has modified a few of the gearing since April, however passing is predicted to be at a premium.
With spots within the “Championship 4” on the road, there may be extra aggressiveness and extra makes an attempt to rise up entrance. However a driver who doesn’t qualify nicely probably gained’t earn stage factors, placing much more of an emphasis on successful the race.
“Simply should qualify nicely,” mentioned Denny Hamlin, who enters the race as the primary driver beneath the cutline. “Bought to be quick in restarts, and we’ll give ourselves an opportunity.”
Denny Hamlin on his day at Homestead
Denny Hamlin mentioned his lack of short-run pace made the distinction final Sunday at Homestead.
Due to his win within the semifinal spherical (NASCAR’s “Spherical of 8”) opener at Las Vegas, Joey Logano is the one driver who is aware of he’ll compete for the championship Nov. 6 at Phoenix.
The opposite seven championship-eligible drivers can advance both with a win or by being among the many two (or three if none of them wins) highest in factors.
“The primary race was extraordinarily laborious to cross,” mentioned Chase Briscoe, whose solely affordable hope of constructing the playoffs is to win.
“If you may get monitor place and preserve it, it’s going to be simple, I believe, to have the ability to management the race.”
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Listed below are the outlooks for the seven drivers heading into Martinsville:
Ross Chastain (+19 on fifth): Chastain can clinch his first spot within the Championship 4 with 41 factors, it doesn’t matter what some other driver does. His second-place finishes within the first two races of the spherical additionally give the Trackhouse Racing driver the tiebreaker in opposition to any of the opposite drivers. He completed fifth at Martinsville, and that was end, however he began twenty seventh, so he earned solely 32 factors that day. If he begins twenty seventh this time, stage factors shall be tough to come back by, and he might find yourself on the bubble.
Ross Chastain on attempting to catch Kyle Larson
Ross Chastain mentioned he was just a bit too tight to have the ability to make the strikes essential to catch Kyle Larson at Homestead.
Chase Elliott (+11 on fifth): Elliott can clinch his third consecutive spot within the Championship 4 with 50 factors, it doesn’t matter what some other driver does. That might require at the least 15 stage factors, and if he accomplishes that, he probably shall be in place to problem for the win. The Hendrick driver was on the pole, led 195 laps and swept the levels on his method to a Tenth-place end (47 factors complete) at Martinsville in April. The 2020 Cup champion at the least is aware of methods to deal with strain conditions.
Chase Elliott on his day at Homestead
Chase Elliott mentioned he was taking part in protection all day at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Be a winner
William Byron (+5 on fifth): Byron is above the cutline, however given the potential that Hamlin or Ryan Blaney wins, Byron must enter this race with the mindset that he should contend for the win. Sure, the Hendrick driver might catch and cross Elliott and Chastain on factors, however they each have proven energy at Martinsville. Byron gained at Martinsville in April — he led 212 laps — so he has confidence that he can repeat. He is looking for his first journey to the championship spherical.
Denny Hamlin (-5 behind fourth): Hamlin has 5 profession victories at Martinsville however in all probability doesn’t enter with a ton of confidence. His crew has lacked pace in current playoff races, and the Joe Gibbs Racing driver was twenty eighth in April at Martinsville. Nonetheless, Hamlin has made the championship spherical every of the previous three years, and also you by no means depend out somebody with 48 profession Cup wins.
Ryan Blaney (-18 behind fourth): Blaney left the primary two races of this spherical pissed off, as errors have put him in a gap such that he may be capable to vie for a spot on factors if he runs nicely in each levels, however he probably has little likelihood of advancing with no win. He was good at Martinsville in April, ending fourth, however matching that probably gained’t be ok for the Crew Penske driver, who’s winless on the yr and observing being eradicated within the semifinal spherical for the fourth time in six years.
Ryan Blaney pissed off over his mistake
Ryan Blaney was pissed off with himself for making a mistake in leaving pit street at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Christopher Bell (-33 behind fourth): He has achieved it earlier than — Bell gained a number of weeks in the past on the Charlotte street course to advance to this spherical — so he can do it once more. However will he? He was twentieth at Martinsville in April. As is the case with Bell’s JGR teammate Hamlin, this simply may not be his yr, which is unusual to put in writing contemplating that he appeared like a favourite after the primary spherical.
Chase Briscoe (-44 behind fourth): Briscoe wrecked at Homestead and has put his again in opposition to the wall, needing to win at Martinsville. He was ninth there in April, so he might want to present strong enchancment. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver gained at Phoenix earlier this yr, so if he can pull off a miracle at Martinsville, he can be one of many favorites for the title.
Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports activities. He has spent many years protecting motorsports, together with the previous 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting Information, NASCAR Scene journal and The (Daytona Seaside) Information-Journal. Observe him on Twitter @bobpockrass, and join the FOX Sports activities NASCAR E-newsletter with Bob Pockrass.
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