Martin Truex, Jr. led 464 of the 500 laps at Martinsville to cement his position in the final race of the season.
With only three race leaders, Denny Hamlin (30) and Kyle Larson (6), you might think this was a boring race. Far from it actually. It was a typical battle for every spot Martinsville race. It didn’t matter if you were a playoff contender or not, there were heated battles on the track all day.
Of the playoff contenders, Chase Elliott started at the back of the field for an engine change. They should have looked closer because it wasn’t too far in when Chase lost his rear axle and he went to the garage for repairs. He returned to the race and finished 55 laps down putting him into a must win situation in the final two races.
Kyle Busch started 13th and never really challenged for the lead but stayed close to the front. His car wasn’t the best and he was getting passed by teammates as well as others. The day must have gotten really frustrating for him because as soon as Denny Hamlin and he got together as Hamlin was passing him, he took his frustration out on Aric Almirola. As Almirola went around him, Busch chopped him, the two got stuck together and around they went, causing an accident that caught up a few others. Almirola was none too happy as his car was done for the day and he promised to make Kyle’s final races hell. Jimmie Johnson was looking for another top 10 finish when he got caught up in the Busch-Almirola kerfuffle and wound up the first car out of the race.
Ryan Blaney looked like he might be able to get past Truex through several late restarts, but he could never close and wound up in a battle to stay in second place. Eventually, William Byron proved strongest and got around Blaney. Blaney was eventually also roughed up by teammate Brad Keselowski who was fighting for every position he could get even though he is out of playoff contention and Blaney is still in contention. That allowed Keselowski and Hamlin to get past Blaney, who finished 5th.
Kyle Larson used some strategy to stay out front and lead a few laps but at the end of the day, he just didn’t have enough to challenge the leaders and finished in 9th.
Kevin Harvick and team were unable to get his car to turn the way he wanted and he finished 7th but is still 14 points below Joey Logano who holds the last transfer position.
Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin had their moment on track as well. With about 50 to go, Denny ran Joey up into the wall causing him to spin with a flat tire. At the end of the race, the two drivers seemed to be having a pointed, yet civil conversation. That ended as Logano finished what he had to say with a light push of Hamlin before he walked away. Hamlin took great offense at the needless push and then all heck broke loose. A Penske teammate flew in to grab Hamlin as he went after Logano which would up taking both driver and crew to the ground. Others came in to separate the now heated drivers and crew. I have my doubts about how well Logano would have fared against Hamlin. My guess would be Hamlin in a TKO by round 2.
Speaking of TKOs, the next two races will be critical for anyone not named Martin Truex, Jr. The last three Texas winners? Hamlin, Harvick and Kyle Busch. And of those three, the driver having the most luck is Hamlin. If Kyle can quit acting out when he isn’t running well and Harvick can get back on his feet, they can give Hamlin and Truex a run for their money at Texas. Expect to see Logano back in the hunt as well.
How about a few “attaboy’s”?
Attaboy William Byron for not taking crap from anyone and dang near running MTJ down.
Attaboy Kurt Busch (6th) who is still fighting for the best position and keeping himself relevant.
Attaboy Ryan Newman for another top 10 finish when it doesn’t really matter anymore.
Attaboy David Ragan for an 11th place finish as he nears the end of his career.
Attaboy Chris Buescher (12th) who is still trying to prove his worth for his 2020 ride.
Attaboy Bubba Wallace for keeping his cool and finishing in 13th.
Enjoy Texas, it should be wild.
(Featured photo courtesy of NASCAR Media)