By: Becca Cottingham Quimby
Headline Photo Credit: NASCAR Twitter
We are at our last race of the round of eight and it will be one full of tempers flaring at Martinsville Speedway. In front of a sold-out crowd located in the mountains of Virginia the just over half-mile short track is sure to bring out the best and worst in the drivers. It is a cloudy day and on the cool side here which will play a key in this race. Kyle Larson will lead us to green and will take the lead. He will bring his teammate right behind him Chase Elliott. Martin Truex Jr and Erik Jones are making contact with one another trying to pass. The leader caught up with the tail end of the lead lap and they are doing everything possible to stay on the lead lap. This has allowed Chase Elliot to get to the rear bumper of Kyle Larson as well. We get a battle for the lead between the teammates and Chase Elliot uses his bumper to slightly move Kyle Larson out of the way. This gets Kyle Larson out of sorts and almost allows Chase Briscoe around him. Kyle Larson then gives Ty Gibbs a bump in the rear. Denny Hamlin has been making his way through the field and now is right behind the leader of Chase Elliot. Both Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliot will battle for the lead in stage one. Denny Hamlin will get the lead with less than ten to go. Denny Hamlin is being extremely aggressive leading the race he will get into William Byron trying to get around him to put him down a lap. Denny Hamlin will win stage one.
William Byron will be the free pass to get back on the lead lap. Chase Briscoe got hit with a penalty for removing equipment from the pit box. He will have to start on the tail end of the longest lap. He will be joined by William Byron who just got his lap back but has to start at the back of the pack. Denny Hamlin waited until the last moment to start in the restart zone. During the restart, it appears that someone missed a shift. This caused the back of the group to stack up but everyone was able to get through overall without any major issues. Tyler Reddick did not feel well and pulled his vehicle behind the wall and went to be checked out at the infield care center. Other drivers are radioing into their crews that the rear tires are gone and after the pictures seen from understandable stage one. Tires have been blistered or coming apart on the track. BJ Mcloud came down pit road and something caught fire. It was quickly put out. Denny Hamlin will win stage two.
We will head back to racing for stage three and it does not take long before Brad Keselowski goes off the front of Ross Chastain’s car. Joey Logano also pitted because of a fire in the car. Ross Chastain accepted responsibility for that incident. We get back to green flag racing and Denny Hamlin takes a commanding lead once again. Everything was going well until Austin Dillion hit the turn-three and turn four walls. It almost looked like Denny Hamlin had a commitment cone violation but after NASCAR reviewed it they said there was no violation. A slow pit stop allowed Christopher Bell to get out front as they had a three-wide race for to get off the pit road. With this restart, we see a lot of contact between drivers. Christopher Bell takes a commanding lead and keeps it until JJ Yeley goes around to bring out a caution. This can be a great position for drivers to pit and get fuel and needed tires. We get back to green flag racing and this will still have most drivers outside of the needed windows. Landon Cassill with a hard hit in turn one brought on by a flat front tire. Bringing out a caution, with the most important pit stop of the year coming up! Kyle Larson goes with just two tires and wins the race off-pit road. However, Chase Briscoe will gamble and stay out trying to win and make the final four. With six laps to go Christopher Bell passes Chase Briscoe. Bell got four new tires and Briscoe staying put to move up to the front was a gamble but worth the risk because both need the win to get into the final four. Now the battle is on for who will get the final transfer spot between Denny Hamlin and Ross Chastain. Those two drivers have battled all season long and Martinsville will be the same. Ross Chastain with a video game move in turns three and four to pass Denny Hamlin to gain two spots and make it to the Championship Chase. He will also bump Brad Keselowski with the speed he has to pass Denny Hamlin at the last second to get the nose in front of Denny Hamlin to get that position for the final transfer position. It was like he was going for the win instead of Christopher Bell. Christopher Bell will hold the lead and get the unofficial win at Martinsville