GFT Facts & Stats Friday: NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Martinsville Speedway

Bob Francis - Go Full Throttle
18 min readOct 27, 2023

27 October 2023
By Bob Francis, Managing Editor
Go Full Throttle Racing News

RIDGEWAY, VA — Its decision time as the final NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race in the Round of 8 comes to Martinsville Speedway to set the NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4. Sunday’s Xfinity 500 will decide who will earn the final two spots, joining Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell, to race for the 2023 Championship in Phoenix.

The historic 0.526-mile Martinsville Speedway will once again play host to the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs’ Round of 8 elimination race, the Xfinity 500 on Sunday, October 29 at 2 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Playoff contenders in the Round of 8 will continue battle Sunday in the Xfinity 500 at Martinsville Speedway (Image Credit: GFT Digital)

NASCAR Cup Series Xfinity 500
Martinsville Speedway
Sunday, October 29 at 2 p.m. ET
The Purse: $8,587,800
TV: NBC, 2 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR (Channel 90)
Distance: 263 miles (500 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 130),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 260), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 500)

Track Facts
Track Length: 0.526 Mile
Race Length: 263 Miles (500 Laps)
Grandstand Seating Capacity: 60,000+
First Race: September 25, 1949
Banking in Corners: 12 degrees
Banking on Straights: 0 degrees
Frontstretch: 800 feet
Backstretch: 800 feet

Martinsville Speedway ( Image Credit: martinsvillespeedway.com )

Qualifying & Race Records
Qualifying: Joey Logano, Ford, 100.201 mph (18.898 secs.); March 28, 2014 (Round 1 of 2)
Race: Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 82.223 mph (3:11:55); Sept. 22, 1996

Track Records
Most Wins: 15 — Richard Petty
Most Poles: 8 — Darrell Waltrip
Most Top Fives: 30 — Richard Petty
Most Top 10s: 38 — Jeff Gordon

Playoff History at Martinsville
A total of 11 different drivers have won a NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Martinsville Speedway. Jimmie Johnson leads the NASCAR Cup Series in postseason wins at Martinsville Speedway with six Playoff victories (2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2016). Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin leads all active NASCAR Cup Series drivers in postseason wins at Martinsville with two Playoff victories (2009, 2010). Hamlin is joined by two other active Playoff contenders that have also won a Playoff race at Martinsville — Christopher Bell (2022) and Martin Truex Jr. (2019).

Three times non-Playoff drivers have won the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Martinsville Speedway: (2005, 2014, 2021).

1) In 2005, Jeff Gordon was ranked 15th in the points at the time of his Playoff win at Martinsville.

2) In 2014, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was 11th in points at the time of the win. Earnhardt Jr. had made the Playoffs in 2014 but was eliminated in the Round of 12.

3) In 2021, Alex Bowman was 14th in points at the time of the win at Martinsville Speedway, the ninth race of the postseason. Bowman had made the Playoffs in 2021 but was eliminated in the Round of 12.

Seven times the winner of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Martinsville Speedway has gone on to win the title that same season (2006, 2007, 2008, 2011, 2016, 2018, 2020) — tied with Homestead-Miami Speedway for the series-most.

1) In 2006, Jimmie Johnson won from the ninth starting position at Martinsville Speedway, then the sixth race in the Playoffs, and went on to win his first of seven NASCAR Cup Series championships. It was his only win during the 2006 Playoffs.

2) In 2007, Jimmie Johnson won from the fourth starting position at Martinsville Speedway, then the sixth race in the Playoffs, and went on to win his second consecutive NASCAR Cup Series championship that same season. The Playoff victory was the first of a record setting four straight postseason wins during the 2007 Playoffs (Martinsville, Atlanta, Texas and Phoenix).

3) In 2008, Jimmie Johnson won from the first starting position at Martinsville Speedway (Qualifying was cancelled), then the sixth race in the Playoffs, and went on to win his third consecutive NASCAR Cup Series championship. The win was his second of three victories during the 2008 Playoffs.

4) In 2011, Tony Stewart won from the fourth starting position at Martinsville Speedway, then the seventh race in the Playoffs, and went on to win his third NASCAR Cup Series championship. The win was one of a record setting five Playoff victories for Stewart during the 2011 postseason.

5) In 2016, Jimmie Johnson won from the third starting position at Martinsville Speedway, then the seventh race in the Playoffs, and went on to win his record tying seventh NASCAR Cup Series championship. The win was his second of three Playoff victories during the 2016 postseason.

6) In 2018, Joey Logano won from the 10th starting position at Martinsville Speedway, then the seventh race in the Playoffs, and went on to win his first NASCAR Cup Series championship. The win was his first of two Playoff victories during the 2018 postseason.

7) In 2020, Chase Elliott won from the eighth starting position at Martinsville Speedway, then the ninth race in the Playoffs, and went on to win his first NASCAR Cup Series championship. The win was his second of three victories during the 2020 postseason.

The worst finish in a Playoff race at Martinsville Speedway by a driver that went on to win the title the same season was 33rd by Kevin Harvick in 2014 — that season Martinsville Speedway was the seventh race in the Playoffs. Last season, Team Penske’s Joey Logano finished sixth at Martinsville, then the ninth race in the Playoffs, and went on to win his second career title (2018, 2022).

Penultimate Playoff race offers one last chance to advance

Last season in a must win situation, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell snagged the victory in the ninth race of the Playoffs and won his way into the NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 Round. This season, Bell (Homestead) and Hendrick Motorsport’s driver Kyle Larson (Las Vegas) have already earned their spots in the Championship 4 by virtue of their wins in the Round of 8, leaving two spots still up for grabs this weekend.

Since the inception of the elimination-style format in the Playoffs in 2014 (last nine seasons), six of the last nine winners of the ninth race of the Playoffs have earned a spot in to the Championship 4 Round with their victory (66.7%) — Kevin Harvick (2014, Phoenix), Joey Logano (2016, Phoenix), Kyle Busch (2018, Phoenix), Denny Hamlin (2019, Phoenix), Chase Elliott (2020, Martinsville) and Christopher Bell (2022, Martinsville).

A total of 12 different drivers have won the ninth race in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs (Race 35 of 36). Jimmie Johnson (2004, 2007, 2008, 2009) and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick (2006, 2012, 2013, 2014) lead the NASCAR Cup Series in wins in the ninth race of the postseason with four victories each.

Two active NASCAR Cup Series Playoff contenders have won the ninth race in the postseason previously; Denny Hamlin won at Phoenix in 2019 and Christopher Bell won at Martinsville in 2022.

Five times non-Playoff drivers have won the ninth Playoff race in the NASCAR Cup Series postseason: (2005, 2011, 2015, 2017 and 2021).

1) In 2005, Kyle Busch was ranked 19th in the points at the time of his win in the ninth race of the Playoffs at Phoenix Raceway.

2) In 2011, Kasey Kahne was ranked 14th in the points at the time of his win in the ninth race of the Playoffs at Phoenix Raceway.

3) In 2015, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was seventh in points at the time of his win in the ninth race of the Playoffs at Phoenix Raceway. Earnhardt Jr. had made the Playoffs in 2015 but was eliminated in the Round of 12.

4) In 2017, Matt Kenseth was seventh in points at the time of his win in the ninth race of the Playoffs at Phoenix Raceway. Kenseth had made the Playoffs in 2017 but was eliminated in the Round of 12.

5) In 2021, Alex Bowman was 14th in points at the time of his win in the ninth race of the Playoffs at Martinsville Speedway. Bowman had made the Playoffs in 2021 but was eliminated in the Round of 12.

Five times the winner of the ninth race in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs has gone on to win the title that same season: (2007, 2008, 2009, 2014, 2020).

1) In 2007, Jimmie Johnson won from the sixth starting position at Phoenix Raceway, then the ninth race of the postseason, and went on to win his second consecutive NASCAR Cup Series championship. The Playoff victory was the fourth of a record setting four straight postseason wins during the 2007 Playoffs (Martinsville, Atlanta, Texas and Phoenix).

2) In 2008, Jimmie Johnson won from the pole at Phoenix Raceway, then the ninth race of the postseason, and went on to win his third consecutive NASCAR Cup Series championship. The win was his third of three victories during the 2008 Playoffs.

3) In 2009, Jimmie Johnson won from the third starting position at Phoenix Raceway, then the ninth race of the postseason, and went on to win his fourth consecutive NASCAR Cup Series championship. The victory was his fourth of four wins during the 2009 postseason.

4) In 2014, Kevin Harvick won from the third starting position at Phoenix Raceway, then the ninth race of the postseason, and went on to win his first NASCAR Cup Series championship. Harvick faced elimination from the Playoffs heading into this race and become the first to clinch his spot in the Championship 4 by winning the Round of 8 elimination race. The win was also his second of three Playoff victories during the 2014 postseason.

5) In 2020, Chase Elliott won from the eighth starting position at Martinsville Speedway, then the ninth race of the postseason, and went on to win his first NASCAR Cup Series championship. With the win Elliott became the second driver to earn a spot in the Championship 4 Round by winning the Round of 8 elimination race — joining Kevin Harvick (2014). The win was his second of three Playoff victories during the 2020 postseason.

The worst finish in the ninth race of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs by a driver that went on to win the title that same season:

· At Phoenix, 38th by Jimmie Johnson in 2016.

· At Darlington, sixth by Kurt Busch in 2004.

· At Martinsville, 14th by Kyle Larson in 2021.

To catch all the side-by-side action the NASCAR Cup Series is known for at Martinsville, make sure to tune-in to practice and Busch Light Pole Qualifying on the USA Network, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio at 12:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, October 28.

Clinch Scenarios: The penultimate race of the season at Martinsville Speedway

Martinsville Speedway offers one final opportunity in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 8 for the six postseason competitors not locked-in to compete for the final two open positions in the Championship 4 Round. Two of the coveted four spots are spoken for, thanks to Hendrick Motorsport’s Kyle Larson taking the victory at the Round of 8 opener in Las Vegas and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell purloining the victory at Homestead-Miami. That leaves just two spots open, and we know at least one of two spots will be claimed by a driver on points.

Already Clinched

The following 2 drivers have clinched a spot in the 4-driver field of the next round: Christopher Bell, Kyle Larson.

Can Clinch Via Points

If there is a repeat winner or a win by a driver who cannot advance to the next round, the following drivers could clinch by being ahead of the 3rd winless driver in the standings. The same point requirements listed below would hold true if a new win comes from among William Byron or Ryan Blaney.

· William Byron: Would clinch with 26 points

· Ryan Blaney: Would clinch with 46 points

· Tyler Reddick: Could only clinch with help

· Martin Truex Jr.: Could only clinch with help

· Denny Hamlin: Could only clinch with help

· Chris Buescher: Could only clinch with help

If there is a new winner from Tyler Reddick or another winless driver lower in the standings but still eligible to advance to the next round, the following drivers could clinch by being ahead of the 2nd winless driver in the standings.

· William Byron: Would clinch with 36 points

· Ryan Blaney: Could only clinch with help

· Tyler Reddick: Could only clinch with help

· Martin Truex Jr.: Could only clinch with help

· Denny Hamlin: Could only clinch with help

Can Clinch Via Win

The following drivers would clinch on their win alone: William Byron, Ryan Blaney, Tyler Reddick, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Chris Buescher

Final chance for Playoff contenders to race their way into the Championship 4

Currently, Kyle Larson (Las Vegas) and Christopher Bell (Homestead-Miami) are the only two NASCAR Cup Series Playoff contenders to secure their spots in the Championship 4 Round by virtue of their wins. That leaves just two spots up for grabs among the six remaining Playoff challengers, and since the introduction of the ‘elimination-style’ format in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs in 2014, five drivers below the cutline have raced their way into the Championship 4 Round in the ninth and final cutoff race of the Round of 8 over the last nine seasons.

2021: Heading to Martinsville Speedway, the ninth race of the Playoffs in 2021, Kyle Busch was ranked in the fourth and final transfer positions on points, and the drivers ranked below the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Championship 4 Round cutline were Ryan Blaney in fifth (-1 point from the Championship 4 cutline), Martin Truex Jr. in sixth (-3), Brad Keselowski (-6) and Joey Logano (-26). Alex Bowman, a non-Playoff driver would win the Playoff race at Martinsville Speedway and Martin Truex Jr. would race his way into the Championship 4 Round by earning more stage points during the race and finishing fourth at Martinsville Speedway eliminating his teammate Kyle Busch from the postseason. Kyle Busch (runner-up finish), Ryan Blaney (11th-place finish), Brad Keselowski (third-place finish) and Joey Logano (10th-place finish) all failed to make the Championship 4 Round and were eliminated from the Playoffs following Martinsville. Kyle Larson earned his spot in the Championship 4 in 2021 on wins in the Round of 8 at Texas and Kansas, he was joined by Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin, who earned their spots on points.

2022: Heading to Martinsville Speedway, the ninth race of the Playoffs in 2022, William Byron was ranked in the fourth and final transfer positions on points, and the drivers ranked below the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Championship 4 Round cutline were Denny Hamlin in fifth (-5 points from the Championship 4 cutline), Ryan Blaney in sixth (-18), Christopher Bell (-33) and Chase Briscoe (-44). In a must-win situation, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell would win the Playoff race at Martinsville Speedway eliminating his William Byron from the postseason. Ryan Blaney (third-place finish), Denny Hamlin (fifth-place finish), and Chase Briscoe (ninth-place finish) all failed to make the Championship 4 Round and were eliminated from the Playoffs following Martinsville. Ross Chastain was able to maintain his position about the Championship 4 with the now notorious ‘Hail-Melon’ move that had him ride the outside wall in Turns 3 and 4 to pass Hamlin and secure the final position in the next round. Joey Logano earned his spot in the Championship 4 in 2022 on his win in the Round of 8 opener, and he was joined by Christopher Bell with his win at Martinsville and Chase Elliott and Ross Chastain, who earned their spots on points.

Eight of the 63 NASCAR Cup Series Martinsville Speedway pole winners are active this weekend, led by Joey Logano with five Martinsville poles (2015 sweep, spring 2016, fall 2017, spring 2019).

A total of 58 different NASCAR Cup Series drivers have won a race at Martinsville Speedway, and 27 of the 58 different NASCAR Cup Series winners at Martinsville Speedway have won multiple times. NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty leads the NASCAR Cup Series in wins at Martinsville Speedway with 15 victories (1960, 1962, 1963, 1967 sweep, 1968, 1969 sweep, 1970, 1971, 1972 sweep, 1973, 1975, 1979). Twelve of the 58 NASCAR Cup Series Martinsville Speedway race winners are active this weekend, led by Denny Hamlin with five Martinsville Cup Series victories (2008, 2009, 2010 sweep, 2015).

Above The Line: Byron and Blaney will look to hold on at Martinsville

The two drivers above the cutoff for the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Championship 4 Round — Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron (+30), and Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney (+10) — will have to be at their best this weekend at Martinsville Speedway to hold off the four drivers below the cutline vying for their positions.

The 25-year-old, Hendrick Motorsports’ driver William Byron heads to Martinsville Speedway this weekend as the highest ranked competitor not already locked into the Championship 4 Round with +30 points above the elimination cutline. Byron, in his fifth appearance in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs (2023, ’22, ’21 ’20, ‘19), is looking to make the Championship 4 Round for the first-time in his career. The North Carolina native has made 11 series starts at the Martinsville short track, collecting one win (April 2022), four top fives, six top 10s and an average finish of 15.1. He finished 23rd at Martinsville earlier this season.

Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney shows up to Martinsville Speedway this weekend with a chip on his shoulder after how he was raced at Homestead-Miami.

“You definitely have to take,” said Blaney in his media availability this week. “Everybody in the Playoffs now, there’s no give anymore. It’s all take, and that’s what you have to do. People approach it differently. Everyone is different of how much they take and how they take it, but you can’t give anymore. If you’re giving, you’re going backwards, so it depends what spot you’re in, but in the Playoffs it’s hard to give. You have to be on the aggressive side and take and that’s just the nature of what it is.”

Now the North Carolina native sits in the fourth and final spot to transfer on points to the Championship 4 Round, up just +10 points on 23XI Racing’s Tyler Reddick in fifth — the first position outside the cutoff. The 29-year-old, Blaney, is on the hunt for his first career appearance in the Championship 4 Round. Looking to Martinsville, Blaney has made 15 career starts at 0.526-mile track, putting up seven top fives and nine top 10s. His average finish at the historic short track is 9.5, and he has finished seventh at Martinsville earlier this season.

Outside Looking In: Reddick, Truex, Hamlin, Buescher have one shot left to make Champ 4

It all comes down to this weekend at Martinsville Speedway and the Xfinity 500 (Sunday, Oct. 29 at 2 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) to decide who will move on and compete for the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series title at Phoenix Raceway on Nov. 5. Four drivers are facing elimination heading into this weekend — 23XI Racing’s Tyler Reddick (-10), Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Martin Truex Jr. (-17) and Denny Hamlin (-17) and RFK Racing’s Chris Buescher (-43) — and will have to battle it out to earn their spot in the Playoffs’ final round.

23XI Racing’s Tyler Reddick is hoping to advance to the Championship 4 Round this season, as it would be uncharted territory, not only for himself and his career, but also for 23XI Racing and car owners Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin (in this role) as well. Reddick is currently in the fifth position in the Playoff outlook, 10 points back from Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney in the fourth and final spot on points. Unfortunately for Reddick, Martinsville is where we decide who will advance, a track he hasn’t had much luck at. In seven Cup Series starts, Reddick has put up one top-10 finish. His average finish at the 0.526-mile track is 20.1, and he finished in 22nd at Martinsville earlier this season.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin is looking to make the final Playoff round for the fifth-time in his career (2014, 2019, 2020, 2021), and is currently in sixth in the Playoff outlook, 17 points back from Ryan Blaney in the fourth and final transfer spot on points. Fortunately for the 42-year-old Hamlin, Martinsville Speedway is one of his best tracks, and considered one of his home tracks. In 35 career Cup starts at the 0.526-mile short track, the Virginia native has accumulated four poles, five wins (most among active drivers), 18 top fives and 24 top 10s. His average finish at Martinsville is 10.3 — the best among Playoff contenders below the cutline this weekend. Hamlin finished in fourth at Martinsville earlier this season.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. has been on a roller coaster of a Playoff run this season and has been scrapping-by each round having only posted one top-10 finish during the postseason. Now the 2023 Regular Season Champion sits in seventh in the Playoff outlook 17 points behind Blaney in fourth. Truex is looking to make the Championship 4 Round for what would be a series-leading tie breaking sixth-time in his career (2021, ’19, ’18, ’17, ‘15). Truex is currently tied with Joey Logano (2022, ’20, ’18, ’16, ‘14), Kevin Harvick (2019, ’18, ’17, ’15, ’14) and Kyle Busch (2019, ’18, ’17, ’16, ’15) for the most Championship 4 Round appearances with five each. When it comes to Martinsville, The 43-year-old, Truex, has had his moments in the spotlight. In 35 series starts at Martinsville, he has amassed three wins, 10 top fives, 16 top 10s and has an average finish of 16.0. He finished third at Martinsville earlier this season.

Facing a must-win situation, RFK Racing’s Chris Buescher has nothing to lose and everything to gain. The Texas native is buried in a deficit of points in the Playoff outlook, 43 markers back from the Championship 4 Round cutline, and is looking to earn a spot in the Playoffs final round for the first-time in his career. The 30-year-old, Buescher has made 16 career starts at Martinsville putting up one top-10 finish. His average finish at 0.526-mile short track is 19.4. He finished 14th at Martinsville early this season.

NASCAR Cup Series Weekend Notes

Reddick could earn Champ 4 appearance in second fewest career starts — Prior to last season, Hendrick Motorsports’ driver Chase Elliott held the record for the fewest starts in the NASCAR Cup Series prior to earning a spot in the Championship 4 Round at 184 starts in his 2020 championship season. But that all changed last year, when Joe Gibbs Racing Christopher Bell surpassed Elliott’s record and earned his first Championship 4 Round appearance in just 107 career starts and Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain earned his in 150 career starts. This weekend, 23XI Racing’s Tyler Reddick could supplant Chastain and move into second on the list, if he clinches his spot in the final round this Sunday with 145 career starts.

NASCAR Cup Series milestones to watch for this season — Below is a look at some of the anticipated NASCAR Cup Series milestones to watch for this season.

Driver Starts

Drivers that are expected to make milestone starts during this season are:

Daniel Suarez — 250th NASCAR Cup Series start — Martinsville Speedway (10/29)

Ryan Preece — 150th NASCAR Cup Series start — Martinsville Speedway (10/29)

Ty Gibbs — 50th NASCAR Cup Series start — Martinsville Speedway (10/29)

Denny Hamlin — 650th NASCAR Cup Series start — Phoenix Raceway (11/5)

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — 400th NASCAR Cup Series start — Phoenix Raceway (11/5)

Driver Wins (10 or more)

Kyle Busch leads all active drivers in career wins with 63, followed by Kevin Harvick (60), Denny Hamlin (51), Brad Keselowski (35), Martin Truex Jr. (34), Joey Logano (32), Kyle Larson (23), Chase Elliott (18) and William Byron (10).

Organization Wins

Wood Brothers Racing is on the cusp a milestone victory in the NASCAR Cup Series and will look for their 100th NASCAR Cup Series win this weekend.

Hendrick Motorsports leads all active NASCAR Cup Series organizations in wins with 301, followed by Joe Gibbs Racing (208), RFK Racing (141), Team Penske (138), Richard Childress Racing (116), Wood Brothers Racing (99), Stewart-Haas Racing (69), Trackhouse Racing (5), 23XI Racing (5), Front Row Motorsports (4), JTG Daugherty Racing (2), Kaulig Racing (2), Spire Motorsports (1).

Manufacturer Wins

Closing in on NASCAR Cup Series win number 850, Chevrolet currently has 849 wins — the most all-time in the Cup Series. Ford has the second most wins all-time in the Cup Series at 727 and Toyota has the fifth-most all-time at 180 (behind Dodge at 217 and Plymouth at 191).

Car Number Wins

№99 car’s next win will be its 50th in the NASCAR Cup Series.

**Next update will follow qualifying

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Bob Francis - Go Full Throttle

Go Full Throttle editors and reporters bring you news & commentary on NASCAR, F1, IndyCar, and World of Outlaws. Member: National Motorsports Press Association