Chase Elliott was the class of the field at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, leading a race-high 236 of the 500-laps that made up the Xfinity 500 to claim his fourth win of the season. His latest win advanced him to the four-driver 2020 NASCAR Cup Series championship battle Nov. 8 at Phoenix Raceway.
“Oh my gosh, his is the biggest win ever for us,” Elliott said. “I’m just so proud to be able to be backed into a corner like that and have to win tonight. I feel like that’s what we’ve been missing these past four or five years and perform when we don’t have a choice. And to do that tonight, we couldn’t ask for a better night. This is unreal. Thanks to the fans for coming out. They’re here, and I love to see it. I’ve just got to catch my breath. This is just unbelievable. We’re going to Phoenix with a shot to win a championship and have a beautiful blue NAPA Camaro headed out there with a shot to win a title. What more could you ask for?”
Elliott will join Joey Logano, who also advanced with a race win two weeks earlier at Kansas Speedway, and Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin, who advanced on points, in the championship-finale.
“I thought I was part race car driver part mathematician,” Keselowski said. ”I can only imagine what my wife was feeling. She’s here in a suite watching, let alone my fans, but I’m really happy for Team Penske to have two cars in. Just a hard-fought day. Got a speeding penalty, there, with like 70-80 to go, and I’m not sure how. The box where i got the speeding penalty is where my car was pitted, so I don’t know. I’ll have to figure that one out later, but just really thankful to be going to the championship four.”
Regular-season champion Kevin Harvick, who has led the Cup Series in wins this season with nine, was among the four drivers eliminated from title contention Sunday after a race that was full of struggle. Harvick already was running outside the top-20 when he made an unscheduled green-flag pit stop for a flat left-rear tire around lap 180. The stop put him two laps down. He eventually got back on the lead lap, getting one lap back by staying out and taking a wave-around a few laps later during a caution for Brennan Poole and, then, getting back on the lead lap with a free pass during a caution for James Davison with 100 laps remaining.
Harvick’s hopes for a second championship were dashed for good, though, in turn four of the final lap when he crashed in an incident with Kyle Busch. Harvick finished the race in the 17th position.
“Look, these championship aren’t like winning like Petty and Earnhardt used to win them,” Harvick said. ”You have to put them together three weeks at a time, and it comes down to one race, and it came down to one race for us tonight and came up short.”
The Team Penske trio of Ryan Blaney, Logano and Keselowski finished together inside the top-five in the second through fourth positions. Kurt Busch rounded out the top-fve. The only driver advancing to the championship four who finished outside the top-10 at Martinsville was Hamlin. He finished 11th.
“It was tough,” Hamlin said. “Our car was fading a little bit. I was also getting into some spots where I was getting roughed up by some teammates, not really ours, just some of the guys that are in the battle. I didn’t even want to be a part of it, so I would just get out of it, and then, I put myself in an interesting spot where the 4 [Harvick] was going for it a little bit, and we were very fortunate he didn’t go for it any further than he did. We did just enough. That’s what we needed to do – is do enough to make it to Phoenix and give ourselves a shot at the championship. This FedEx team definitely deserves to be in the top-four and glad that we are able to give it a shot next week.”
Hamlin won the first 130-lap stage of the race, taking his stage-winning lead from Elliott on lap 113. Martin Truex Jr. took the lead from pole sitter Keselowski on lap four and ran up front until Elliott took his first lead of the race on lap 89.
Elliott won the second stage of the race that ended on lap 260.
Kyle Busch and Kurt Busch were up front to start the second stage after staying out during the caution that followed stage one. Kurt Busch took the lead on the restart and ran up front until Elliott retook the position on lap 163.
Elliott gave up the lead to pit during a caution for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. on lap 216, but on newer tires, he retook the lead from Hamlin on lap 240.
Elliott lost positions on pit road during two cautions in the second half of the race. He went from the lead to fourth during a caution for Timmy Hill with 149 laps to go. At first, the trip down pit road appeared dire when he was assessed a penalty by NASCAR when his jackman went over the pit wall too soon. But upon review, the jackman ran back and tagged the wall before servicing the call, so the penalty was rescinded, and Elliott retained his fourth-place restart position.
Elliott, then, had a slow stop during the Davison caution.
As Elliott gave up positions on pit road, Logan and Blaney led laps. Truex, though, took the lead from Logano on the restart after the Davison caution.
Elliott took his race-winning lead from Truex on lap 466. Several laps later, Truex made an unscheduled green-flag pit stop for a loose wheel. As a result, he wound up 22nd at the checkered flag after leading 129 laps.
“We had a great car all day long and just kept making adjustments waiting for it to cool off and get dark,” Truex said. “That last run, there, before the final pit stop, the thing was on rails, and it was perfect and we were driving away. I felt really good about it. Then, we pitted and had a pretty good pit stop. Came out with the lead, and right away I knew something was wrong. I was really, really tight and had a vibration. The 9 [Elliott] car passed us, and we started dropping and had to pit for a loose wheel. Unfortunate. I think we should be the one in victory lane right now, but you have to do it all. Just a little mistake, there.”
Alex Bowman finished sixth, Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Aric Almirola and Clint Bowyer finished seventh and eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Matt DiBenedetto finished 10th.
XFINITY 500 RESULTS