MARTINSVILLE, Va. (WGHP) — The NASCAR championship field is set: four drivers are set to face off in the championship race at Phoenix.
After the 500-lap battle at Martinsville with six drivers going for the last two spots, High Point’s Ryan Blaney took the win and is headed for a championship run.
Blaney led 145 laps, but it was when he took the lead back from Aric Almirola on lap 478 that sealed the deal. It was during a 168-lap green flag race to the checkers. Blaney saved his tires and a bit of fuel early in the run and ran down Almirola with just 22 laps to go.
The win gave Blaney something he’s been wanting, that Martinsville Grandfather Clock, at what he considers his home track.
“I grew up in High Point … just a little bit south of here, and I grew up closer to here than I did Charlotte, really. And so I … watched dad race for a long time,” Blaney said.
William Byron is the other driver who raced his way into the championship four on Sunday. He joins Blaney, Christopher Bell and Kyle to race for the title at Phoenix. Byron finished thirteenth, but it wasn’t easy. For the last 50 laps, he was feeling sick in the car and had to tough it out.
“With like 50-60 to go … I couldn’t. I was just so blurry in the car, and I just wanted to want to pull in, but you’re not going to do that. I was going to … do something first,” Byron said, “So I’m just really proud of the team. I can’t reiterate that enough. They gave me an opportunity, and this is my dream … I love to race cars.”
Denny Hamlin missed the championship four by just eight points despite finishing third in the race. He looks back at the team’s mechanical failure at Homestead as his season’s pivotal moment.
“The easy answer is we fell short because we had a mechanical failure last week. And that’s that,” Hamlin said.
Blaney has been hot lately with an average finish of third in the last three races. He likes his momentum headed in the championship race. It’s a race he finished second in last year right behind his teammate who won that race to win the title.