NASCAR Playoff Recap – Round of 8, Race 3

NASCAR Playoff Recap - Round of 8, Race 3

Justin Byers, Author

Martinsville, VA — NASCAR hits up the historic Martinsville Raceway to decide its final 3 championship spots for next week’s race at Phoenix Raceway. 7 drivers and 3 spots. Joey Logano (P) is the only driver already advanced. Kyle Larson scored the pole position and kept the lead on the restart. On lap 25, Kyle Larson would begin lapping cars. With Martinsville being a short race track, this is not uncommon. Chase Briscoe (P), who is -29 on the cut line, moves up into 3rd place on lap 45. He is now -23 on Ryan Blaney (P). Briscoe continues to make up time on Chase Elliott (P), who runs second. On lap 69, Chase Elliott (P) would take the lead from Kyle Larson. Chase Briscoe (P) is in 3rd, only 0.8 behind Kyle Larson. On lap 89, Briscoe falls to 5th and reports a radio issue. With 9 laps to go in stage 1, Denny Hamlin (P) would pass Chase Elliott (P) for the lead. He would hold on to it for the 9 laps and win stage 1. Meanwhile, Kyle Busch has been lapped 4 times and is currently running last. All but 17 cars have been lapped. William Byron (P), 18th, will receive the free pass. All cars pit under the stage yellow and Denny Hamlin (P) keeps the lead. However, the no. 14 of Chase Briscoe (P) would receive a penalty for removing equipment and we would have to start at the rear. Kyle Busch would also be warned for not meeting the minimum speed. Denny Hamlin (P) keeps the lead on the stage 2 restart on lap 140. On lap 189, Tyler Reddick pulls into the garage reporting on the radio about a health issue, Denny Hamlin (P) continues to lead. On lap 232, the no. 78 of B. J. McLeod would pit with a fire under the hood but would not affect Denny Hamlin (P) in stage 2 when, on lap 260, he would cross the line and win stage 2. Denny Hamlin (P) would lead the field to green on lap 272 with the no. 5 of Kyle Larson to his outside but only one lap in, the no. 1 of Ross Chastain (P) locked his tires up into turn one and would send the no. 6 of Brad Keselowski spinning. The 11 would hold the lead for the lap 281 restarts. On lap 320, the no. 3 of Austin Dillon would hit the wall. All the lead lap cars would pit under this caution and the no. 11 of Denny Hamlin (P) would only come out 4th. Christopher Bell (P) would win the race off pit road and lead the field to green on lap 330, but the no. 15 of J. J. Yeley would spin in turn 4 on lap 393. The no. 20 would continue to lead. On lap 467, the no. 77 of Landon Cassill would get into the wall entering turn 4. The no. 14 would stay out and take the lead for the lap 477 restarts. Down at the playoff bubble, Denny Hamlin (P) and Ross Chastain (P) would fight for 4th place in the standings and the final cutoff spot. If the 14 or 20 wins, only one of them can make it. With 4 laps to go, the no. 20 would take the lead from the no. 14. This move puts the no. 20 in the championship 4 and drops the no. 14 out of the championship 4. Ross Chastain is currently 2 points out. He runs 10th with Hamlin running 5th. Ross is about a half of a second off of the next car entering the last lap. Christopher Bell (P) wins the race and puts himself into the playoff. Ross Chastain looks to be out of championship 4 because his 10th place is not enough. He needs 7th or better. Instead of worrying about the closing of that championship window, Chastain drove right through it. Throughout Martinsville’s long history of NASCAR racing, NASCAR drivers had hit the brakes to make it through turns 3 and 4, Ross Chastain gassed up and pinned his no. 1 Moose Fraternity Chevrolet Camaro to the outside retaining wall on the final lap. With the checkered flag waving ahead, Chastain rocked around the final corners while ridding the wall to go from 10th to 5th place and advance into Championship 4. That move instantly became the most dramatic and clutch move in NASCAR history. Ross Chastain ran a lap 2 seconds faster than the series’ track record. During post-race, Brad Keselowski was disqualified for not meeting the minimum weight.

The Championship 4 includes Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, Christopher Bell, and Ross Chastain. Though NASCAR history, the cup series champion has been the winner of the first race in the round of 8. This year’s being Joey Logano. Chase Elliott already has one championship to his name and was the regular season champion. Christopher Bell is likely the most clutch driver in the 2022 playoff, being in a must-win twice and winning. He won earlier at the Charlotte ROVAL™ and just recently at Martinsville. Will he come up clutch again? Ross Chastain has needed so much to go right for him to even make the Round of 8. He made it and we just saw what he would do to give him a chance at a championship run. Makes you wonder, “what would he do to win the championship?” However, will his beef with Denny Hamlin from Gateway catch up to him? Denny did say he was going to wait until it matters most. 

The championship race will be run at Phoenix Raceway in Phoenix, AZ on November 6, 2022. The race begins at 3:00 pm EST. Comment below, who are you rooting for?