How NASCAR playoff drivers did at Martinsville. What they said, who's in the championship.

Alex Andrejev, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Auto Racing

The four NASCAR Cup drivers who will compete for a championship trophy were determined Sunday at Martinsville in a race won by non-playoff driver Alex Bowman.

Defending champion Chase Elliott dominated the first two stages, winning both, to secure his place in the season finale on points by the end of Stage 2. With Kyle Larson already locked in, that meant two spots remained as Joe Gibbs Racing and Penske playoff drivers vied for the openings, racing around the previously eliminated Hendrick Motorsports drivers.

Gibbs cars driven by Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. eventually surged to the front in the final stage, but late chaos ensued as Truex went into the wall and Hamlin was spun from the lead by Bowman. Hamlin had strong words about Bowman after the race. He halted the winner’s burnout to a round of boos from the fans in attendance at the Southern Virginia short track.

“He’s just a hack. He’s an absolute hack,” Hamlin said on NBC.

Bowman said that he “just got loose and spun” Hamlin when asked about the contact.

“I got in too deep, knocked him out of the way and literally let him have the lead back,” Bowman said. “For anybody that wants to think I was trying to crash him, obviously wasn’t the case considering I literally gave up the lead at Martinsville to give it back to him.”


“He’s been on the other side of that,” Bowman continued. “He’s crashed guys here for wins. I hate doing it. Obviously I don’t want to crash somebody. I just got in, got underneath him, spun him out.”

Here are the drivers advancing to the Championship 4:

1. Kyle Larson

Advanced to the Championship 4 race prior to Sunday with a win at Texas. He also won last weekend’s race at Kansas and started on the pole at Martinsville. Larson led early laps, exchanging the lead with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott. He had two speeding penalties on pit road that set him back in the running, one in the second stage and one in the final stage. Larson finished 14th and attributed the speeding penalties to being too aggressive and having more confidence being locked into the final race.


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