Martin Truex Jr. Advances to the Championship Final Four with Martinsville Win

MARTINSVILLE, VIRGINIA – OCTOBER 27: Martin Truex Jr, driver of the #19 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota, takes the checkered flag to win the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 27, 2019, in Martinsville, Virginia. Photo – Jared C Tilton/Getty Images

Only two more races of the Round of 8 are left to run before the final four drivers do battle for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship crown. On Sunday afternoon, Martinsville Speedway was the first race of this round. Several drivers held a lot of promise heading into Sunday’s race with many drivers believing that Martinsville Speedway is the track to win and punch their ticket to the season finale at Homestead Miami Speedway.

Hamlin set the pace on Sunday, jumping out to an early lead. As he was reaching lapped traffic, a caution flag waved for debris on the front stretch. The leaders came down pit road for the first time and it was Martin Truex Jr winning the race off pit road. Truex Jr. led the field back to the green flag and immediately held a big lead over the rest of the field. He was able to maneuver through the lapped traffic and win stage one with almost a three-second lead.

Truex Jr. continued overpowering the field in the next stage while the race changed for the worst for another playoff driver. On lap 177, the caution waved for Ty Dillon and Daniel Hemric after they spun coming out of turn four. The leaders came down pit road, and Chase Elliott’s car suffered a broken rear axel while pulling out of his pit box. Elliott and his team returned to the garage to make the needed repairs.

Another caution came out late in the stage with Clint Bowyer slowing down on the race track. His car had a blown tire making him back up the rest of the field. The leaders came down pit road for service while Kyle Larson decided to stay out. On the restart, Larson held his lead, but Truex Jr. was not to be denied as he passed Larson on the final lap and won the second stage.

Truex Jr. drove off with the lead to begin the last stage of the race as his lead rose to over three and a half seconds over the rest of the field. On lap 345, another caution came out after Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Austin Dillon had a scuffle on the track. Truex Jr. again won the race off pit road and continued to show everyone else how it is done.

Late in the race, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano battled hard down the front stretch. After the two made contact, Logano spun driving into turn one. The caution waved with the field resetting for the restart.

Martin Truex Jr. continued to lead, but William Byron fought hard to stay with him in the closing laps of the race. But Byron was not able to come close enough to attempt a pass, so Truex Jr. wins and becomes the first driver to advance into the championship four.

Sunday afternoon was another classic Martin Truex Jr. victory after winning both stages, claiming the checkered flag, and dominating 464 laps out of the 500 total laps at Martinsville. It was his day and nobody else could come close to touching it. Martinsville is a tough place to run with all the traffic on this short track, but Truex Jr was able to weave through it flawlessly and now heads to Homestead-Miami to race for his second championship in three years.

As for a few other drivers in the playoffs, Chase Elliott now sits in a must-win situation. He is 44 points below the cut off in eighth-place after having a bad weekend with an engine failure and a broken axel. Elliott was running in the top-five when the car issues occurred, so for a while, it looked like he was going to have a solid afternoon. Kyle Larson is also 24 points below the cut line and needs solid finishes in the next two races to be able to advance.

Next up for the NASCAR Cup Series Round of 8 is Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, November 3rd at 3 pm ET on NBCSN.