One race, three spots up for grabs.
The Championship 4 will finally be decided this weekend as the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Martinsville Speedway. Kyle Larson is the only driver who knows he’s racing for a championship, having won the first two races in the Round of 8.
Reigning series champion Chase Elliott goes into Martinsville in a much better spot than a year ago when he had to win the race to advance. Elliott is 34 points above the cutline after a second-place finish at Kansas Speedway.
Denny Hamlin also has some breathing room. Hamlin is 32 points above the cutline heading to his home track, where he’s won five times.
Things get tight behind them. Two-time series champion Kyle Busch is still on the bubble but now only by one point after a terrible day at Kansas, where he finished 28th. Busch was eight points above the cutline going into the race.
Ryan Blaney was the biggest loser in Kansas. A DNF knocked Blaney from second on the playoff grid with a 17-point advantage on the cutline to the first driver out.
“We got run into from two lanes below me,” Blaney said of the contact from Austin Dillon with 44 laps to go. “I have no idea. Obviously, it hurts. Finishing 37th is not prime. We didn’t have a great day, but we did a good job of fighting back and getting back into the top 10, but then just got wiped out when we had plenty of room. That sucks. It’s very unfortunate.”
Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski are both still below the cutline, but they did cut into their deficits at Kansas. Joey Logano remains last on the playoff grid and still with a must-win mentality.
Of the eight drivers fighting for a spot in the title race, six have made previous Championship 4 appearances. Larson, already locked in, will make his first next month, and Blaney is the other driver who hopes to make the same.
The Championship 4 last year was Elliott, Keselowski, Logano, and Hamlin.
Here is the updated grid going into this weekend at Martinsville Speedway:
1. Kyle Larson – ADVANCED
2. Chase Elliott +34
3. Denny Hamlin +32
4. Kyle Busch +1
5. Ryan Blaney -1
6. Martin Truex Jr. -3
7. Brad Keselowski -6
8. Joey Logano -26