MARTINSVILLE, VA – Win and you’re in. That’s the basic principal of the NASCAR playoff system, and eight drivers in the field of 39 cars were racing at Martinsville in the cutoff race that narrowed that field to four.
Joey Logano started the race the only winner already locked in. The rest were racing for three remaining spots.
Martin Truex Jr. and Chase Elliott could only advance to the championship race with a win.
Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin have an almost sure lock with points earned during the season.
Brad Keselowski could race his way in without winning but it would be a tough challenge.
Once the 500 lapper got rolling, Truex and Elliott were strong early and Hamlin asserted his usual Martinsville poise, padding his points with the stage one win.
Harvick fell back, the car not handling well and then contact with another driver cutting at tire forcing him to pit under green, losing two laps that he didn’t get back until late in the race.
Chase Elliott dominated through the middle portion of the race, winning stage two but near disaster on the stage break pit stop when his jackman jumped off of the wall early and only quick thinking kept it from being a penalty when the jackman ran back to the wall for a rulebook allowed “reset” of the early jump.
Truex had a late-race tire vibration forcing a green flag pitstop, and Kevin Harvick missed the mark by one point, needing to pass one more car.
Harvick made a bold last lap attempt to shove Kyle Busch out of the way but ended up spinning himself and Busch as the checkered flag flew.
Harvick and Truex missed the playoff four while Hamlin and Keselowski advanced to the playoff race on points.
Chase Elliott stayed at the front most of the race, leading 236 laps, winning the race and a spot in the playoffs.
Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano will race for the NASCAR Cup Series 2020 Championship in the season finale at Phoenix on Nov. 8.