MARTINSVILLE, Va. (WGHP) – On the oldest racetrack in the NASCAR Cup Series, 38 drivers were racing to win and receive their own grandfather clock Trophy, and eight drivers were racing for a place in the final four to run for the Cup Series Championship next week at Phoenix Raceway.
One of those eight is already locked into the final four, Kyle Larson, by way of his win in this round of the playoffs. The other seven needed to either finish well enough or win.
Chase Elliott dominated early while Denny Hamlin started from the rear due to failing pre-race inspection twice.
Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano ran near the front but could never take command of the race.
Ryan Blaney had contact with non-playoff driver Austin Dillon early in the race but said that his car just wasn’t there to make a run to the front.
And Martin Truex Jr. hung on near the lead and made a strong run at the end, finishing in fourth place.
Kyle Larson was hoping to win a fourth race in a row, but that idea became fleeting when he sped on pit road twice, saying he could afford to be aggressive since he was locked in but just overstepped that speed limit and finished the race in fourteenth place.
Kyle Busch ran well and finished third, even racing from the rear once after a pit speeding penalty.
Chase Elliott won the first two stages and locked himself into the Championship Four with that but later found the front bumper of Brad Keselowski and went for a spin late in the race and wound up in sixteenth place.
Denny Hamlin took advantage of that misfortune and held at the front during the later portions of the race as he and Alex Bowman battled back and forth and side-by-side, lap after lap.
With six laps to go, Bowman’s car drifted up the racetrack into Hamlin, causing him to spin out.
Bowman took the win, his fourth this year, while Truex and Hamlin filled out the last two spots and will join Larson and Elliott in the Chamionship Four at Phoenix.
Hamlin greeted Bowman, both still in their cars, on the front stretch after the race, and they sat nose to nose as Hamlin gestured and did a burnout in a very Bowman Gray Stadium style.
In a post-race interview, he called Bowman a hack who can’t win like his teammates do.
Kyle Busch had harsh words from Brad Keselowski after the race, saying they usually race respectfully of one another but that Brad was overly aggressive in this race.
Sunday will be the final race of the 2021 season at Phoenix Raceway where 40 drivers will compete again for the win, and four will compete for the Cup Series title.