Martin Truex Jr. narrowly finished second at Martinsville and has built up such a points lead that him missing the final four at Homestead seems practically unimaginable. Steve Helber AP
Martin Truex Jr. narrowly finished second at Martinsville and has built up such a points lead that him missing the final four at Homestead seems practically unimaginable. Steve Helber AP

NASCAR & Auto Racing

NASCAR Cup Series | Results and 3 takeaways from Sunday’s race at Martinsville

By Brendan Marks

bmarks@charlotteobserver.com

October 29, 2017 08:03 PM

UPDATED October 29, 2017 08:03 PM

RIDGEWAY, Va.

Kyle Busch advanced to the championship race for the third consecutive year with his win on Sunday at Martinsville Speedway, but there are other implications from the race as well. Here are the three biggest takeaways from Sunday’s First Data 500 race:

1. One golden ticket down has been punched

For all the drama that went down on Sunday, the easiest takeaway is that Kyle Busch won and in doing so, he earned his spot in the championship race at Homestead. This will be the third year in a row that Busch races for the NASCAR Cup Series championship, winning it in 2015, and he has as good a chance as anyone to win it again this season. Busch likely could have advanced to the final four on points had he not won one of the three races in this stage of the playoffs, but locking down his golden ticket early isn’t a bad thing. The driver who won at Martinsville last year and clinched his spot in Homestead early was Jimmie Johnson, who went on to win the championship... If anything, that bodes well for Busch.

2. Poor Chase Elliott, who deserves to be mad

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Chase Elliott has somehow still never won a Cup Series race, but the fact that he consistently comes in second – he’s done so six times so far in his short career – makes that even harder to deal with. It looked like he would finally make it into Victory Lane at Martinsville, leading with 38 laps to go. But Keselowski passed him then, and when Elliott regained the lead with four laps to go, Denny Hamlin punted him into the wall and prevented him from getting the win. Hamlin and Elliott are both fighting to make it into the final four and race for a championship, but after the race, they deservedly got into a spat. You have to feel for Elliott, who called what Hamlin did, “over the line,” after the race. When a win would be your first ever in the Cup Series, not to mention punching your golden ticket to the championship race, you can see why Elliott would be as upset as was. But if he keeps doing what he’s doing, and he keeps racing as well as he has in the first two years of his career so far, then that first win isn’t too far off.

Denny Hamlin, center, leaves the track after Sunday’s NASCAR Cup series auto race at Martinsville Speedway. Hamlin wrecked with Chase Elliott during the last few laps of the race.
Steve Helber AP

3. Who else has a shot at a championship spot?

All season long, talk about Homestead has centered on three drivers: Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr. With Larson shockingly eliminated last season and Busch now having clinched his spot in the championship race, Truex is the only one of the three whose future is still undetermined. Still, he narrowly finished second at Martinsville and has built up such a points lead that him missing the final four seems practically unimaginable. So, other than Truex, which other two drivers might make it to Homestead? Kevin Harvick came from behind and finished fifth at Martinsville, and he’s been solid all season. It’s impossible to count out Jimmie Johnson based on his championship pedigree, but he hasn’t been as good as he was in past winning seasons. There’s still two races to be run, but if you had to make a guess now, I’d say Harvick and Keselowski end up with Truex and Busch in Homestead.

First Data 500

The full race results, from the Associated Press:

Sunday

At Martinsville Speedway

Martinsville, Va.

Lap length: 0.526 miles

St

Driver

Car

Laps

*

Rating

1

14

Kyle Busch

Toyota

505

0

58

2

2

Martin Truex Jr

Toyota

505

0

48

3

5

Clint Bowyer

Ford

505

0

36

4

7

Brad Keselowski

Ford

505

0

53

5

13

Kevin Harvick

Ford

505

0

36

6

34

Trevor Bayne

Ford

505

0

31

7

6

Denny Hamlin

Toyota

505

0

31

8

4

Ryan Blaney

Ford

505

0

38

9

17

Matt Kenseth

Toyota

505

0

31

10

22

Ricky Stenhouse Jr

Ford

505

0

27

11

21

Dale Earnhardt Jr

Chevrolet

505

0

26

12

24

Jimmie Johnson

Chevrolet

505

0

33

13

25

Austin Dillon

Chevrolet

505

0

26

14

18

Ryan Newman

Chevrolet

505

0

23

15

15

Daniel Suarez

Toyota

505

0

22

16

12

Kasey Kahne

Chevrolet

505

0

24

17

23

Danica Patrick

Ford

505

0

20

18

10

Aric Almirola

Ford

505

0

19

19

20

Michael McDowell

Chevrolet

505

0

18

20

19

Paul Menard

Chevrolet

505

0

17

21

29

Chris Buescher

Chevrolet

505

0

16

22

11

Kurt Busch

Ford

505

0

15

23

33

Landon Cassill

Ford

505

0

14

24

1

Joey Logano

Ford

504

0

29

25

30

Cole Whitt

Chevrolet

504

0

12

26

8

Erik Jones

Toyota

504

0

11

27

3

Chase Elliott

Chevrolet

504

0

21

28

31

David Ragan

Ford

503

0

9

29

16

Jamie McMurray

Chevrolet

503

0

8

30

26

Ty Dillon

Chevrolet

501

0

7

31

35

Gray Gaulding

Toyota

501

0

6

32

32

Reed Sorenson

Chevrolet

500

0

5

33

36

Corey Lajoie

Toyota

500

0

4

34

40

Hermie Sadler

Chevrolet

494

0

3

35

38

Kyle Weatherman

Chevrolet

488

0

2

36

39

Carl Long

Chevrolet

444

1

0

0

37

9

Kyle Larson

Chevrolet

300

1

0

1

38

37

Jeffrey Earnhardt

Chevrolet

274

2

0

1

39

28

Matt DiBenedetto

Ford

187

3

0

1

40

27

AJ Allmendinger

Chevrolet

94

1

0

1

*Reason out: 1-accident, 2-reargear, 3-electrical.

Race Statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 74.901 mph.

Time of Race: 3 hours, 32 minutes, 47 seconds.

Margin of Victory: 0.141 seconds.

Caution Flags: 11 for 74 laps.

Lead Changes: 16 among 6 drivers.

Lap Leaders: J.Logano 1-48; B.Keselowski 49-78; J.Logano 79-89; J.Johnson 90-113; B.Keselowski 114-134; Ky.Busch 135-257; B.Keselowski 258-265; Ky.Busch 266-324; C.Elliott 325-362; B.Keselowski 363-385; C.Elliott 386-458; Ky.Busch 459; C.Elliott 460-470; B.Keselowski 471-496; C.Elliott 497; D.Hamlin 498-504; Ky.Busch 505

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): Ky.Busch, 4 times for 180 laps; C.Elliott, 4 times for 119 laps; B.Keselowski, 5 times for 103 laps; J.Logano, 2 times for 57 laps; J.Johnson, 1 time for 23 laps; D.Hamlin, 1 time for 6 laps.

Wins: M.Truex, 7; Ky.Busch, 5; K.Larson, 4; J.Johnson, 3; B.Keselowski, 3; D.Hamlin, 2; R.Stenhouse, 2; R.Blaney, 1; Ku.Busch, 1; A.Dillon, 1; K.Harvick, 1; K.Kahne, 1; J.Logano, 1; R.Newman, 1.

Top 16 in Points: 1. M.Truex, 4117; 2. Ky.Busch, 4100; 3. B.Keselowski, 4079; 4. K.Harvick, 4053; 5. J.Johnson, 4050; 6. R.Blaney, 4047; 7. D.Hamlin, 4045; 8. C.Elliott, 4027; 9. K.Larson, 2237; 10. M.Kenseth, 2215; 11. K.Kahne, 2150; 12. A.Dillon, 2148; 13. J.McMurray, 2146; 14. R.Stenhouse, 2146; 15. Ku.Busch, 2139; 16. R.Newman, 2130.

NASCAR Driver Rating Formula

A maximum of 150 points can be attained in a race.

The formula combines the following categories: Wins, Finishes, Top-15 Finishes, Average Running Position While on Lead Lap, Average Speed Under Green, Fastest Lap, Led Most Laps, Lead-Lap Finish.