Martinsville is known as “The Half-Mile of Mayhem” based on the amount of bumping and banging and the number of dramatic finishes the track produces. However, when Martinsville is in the playoffs, maybe a more suitable name is “The Half-Mile of Pissed off Playoff Drivers” because, for the last 2 years in a row, the fall race at the short track has ended with wrecked race cars and wrecked relationships as drivers do everything in their power to lock themselves into the final four at Homestead. This year was no different and, ironically, featured the same drivers from the past 2 years.
LAP 1: Playoff driver, Denny Hamlin, won the pole position during qualifying. When the green flag flew, he easily pulled away to a comfortable lead.
LAP 11: Aggression started to show early when Kevin Harvick moved Kyle Larson out of the preferred bottom lane and then pushed the #42 of Larson up the track to take 15th place.
LAP 23: Playoff driver, Chase Elliott, started at the rear of the field as a result of an engine failure in first practice that forced Elliott’s #9 team to make an engine change. Despite the penalty, Elliott had moved up to 18th position in just over 20 laps, proving his speed and driving capabilities.
CAUTION – LAP 27: The #36 driven by Matt Crafton made contact with the #15 of Ross Chastain and ripped the splitter off the #36 and knocked the brake ducts out of the car. The #36 is normally piloted by Matt Tifft, however, Tifft was taken to hospital for undisclosed reasons on Friday afternoon and NASCAR Truck Series driver, Matt Crafton was called on to fill in. On pit road, Hamlin lost the lead due to a slow pit stop, allowing his teammate Martin Truex Jr to take P1.
STAGE 1 END – LAP 130: Martin Truex Jr won the stage after leading 100 plus laps in the segment. Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Clint Bowyer, and Joey Logano rounded out the Top 5
CAUTION – LAP 178: In Turn 4, Ty Dillon in the #13 turned down across the nose of Daniel Hemric and spun on the front straightaway.
LAP 186: As the field rolled to the green flag to start the second stage, Chase Elliott rolled to pit road with a broken left rear axel, after having driven from the back of the field to P5. Elliott went to the pits and then the garage for repairs and returned to the track 52 laps down to the leader. This put Elliott in a must-win situation heading into the last 2 races in the Round of 8.
CAUTION – LAP 253: Clint Bowyer and his #14 team made a terrible mistake when Bowyer’s right rear tire went down. Bowyer came to pit road, and because of miscommunication, the team changed the left side tires. Bowyer returned to the track and immediately slowed as the right rear tire (that was still cut) started to shred, causing the yellow flag to come out with 7 laps left in the stage. Kyle Larson stayed out in an effort to win the stage.
STAGE 2 END – LAP 260: Martin Truex got a run coming off of Turn 4 and drag raced Larson to the finish line to take his second stage win of the race. Larson came in 2nd, with Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, and Aric Almirola finishing inside the Top 5.
LAP 297: Some heavy-duty beating and bumping took place between the Penske teammates of Ryan Blaney (#12) and Joey Logano (#22) for the 2nd position. Logano was undeniably faster than Blaney, but the #12 continued to block in every turn despite subtle bumps from Logano to let Blaney know to move over. This went on for several laps before Logano moved Blaney out of the racing groove and claimed 2nd place. Both drivers radioed to their respective teams to complain about how the other had raced them.
CAUTION – LAP 346: Austin Dillon cut the right-front tire after making contact with the #17 of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Dillon used the right front of his car to forcibly push Stenhouse up the track, inevitably inflicting more damage on himself than he did on Stenhouse.
CAUTION – LAP 363: Drama ensued between the #10 of Aric Almirola and the #18 of Kyle Busch when Almirola made the slightest contact with the rear of Busch, who was already partly out of the groove. Almirola turned under the #18 and attempted to make the pass just as Busch chopped him off and then door slammed the #10. The retaliation backfired when the cars became hooked on each other and slid sideways down the front stretch before spinning in opposite directions and collecting the #47 of Ryan Preece and the #48 of Jimmie Johnson.
Almirola was out of the race and in his interview said, “We’ve got three more weeks, and I’m going to make it hell for him.” When Kyle Busch got out of his car at the end of the race and was informed of Almirola’s comments, Busch replied, “Sounds good.” Next week’s race at Texas is already promising chaos. *Covers eyes*
CAUTION – LAP 378: While racing for position, Alex Bowman tried to slide into an opening that wasn’t there, hitting the left rear quarter panel of the #43 of Bubba Wallace and the left front of Daniel Suarez. This resulted in a cut tire on all three cars.
CAUTION – LAP 450: Clint Bowyer experienced yet another tire failure when the right front on his #14 Ford Mustang went down. He limped around the track, trying to get to pit road, but the caution flag was waved due to his slow speed. This time, his pit crew changed the correct tires.
CAUTION – LAP 460: Denny Hamlin, who was starting to fade to the lower half of the top 10, pinned the #22 of Joey Logano against the wall coming off of Turn 4 and held the #22 there until Logano’s right tires began to smoke. The caution flag waved, allowing Logano to pit for new tires, but the incident lingered with Logano until the end of the race.
CAUTION – LAP 473: The 11th and final caution of the race came for the #34 of Michael McDowell who spun the #8 of Daniel Hemric.
CHECKERED FLAG – LAP 500: Martin Truex Jr took the checkered flag after leading 464 laps. This was his 7th win of the season, his first at Martinsville in his career,
POST RACE: After the race, on pit road, Logano understandably went to Hamlin to discuss their Lap 460 incident and express his displeasure about the way he was raced. What started out as a conversation, ended… well, like this:
- Martin Truex Jr
- Willian Byron
- Brad Keselowski
- Denny Hamlin
- Ryan Blaney
- Kurt Busch
- Kevin Harvick
- Joey Logano
- Kyle Larson
- Ryan Newman
- David Ragan
- Chris Buescher
- Bubba Wallace
- Kyle Busch
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr
- Matt DiBenedetto
- Daniel Hemric
- Corey Lajoie
- Ryan Preece
- Erik Jones
- Paul Menard
- Austin Dillon
- Michael McDowell
- Ty Dillon
- Matt Crafton
- Landon Cassill
- BJ McLeod
- JJ Yeley
- Ross Chastain
- Alex Bowman
- Daniel Suarez
- Garrett Smithley
- Reed Sorenson
- Timmy Hill
- Clint Bowyer
- Chase Elliott
- Aric Almirola
- Jimmie Johnson