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Comments from eliminated Cup playoff drivers

Following the Xfinity 500 Sunday at Martinsville Speedway, the NASCAR Cup Series playoff field was chopped from eight drivers to four.

Photo by Erick Messer/TRE

The Championship 4 drivers racing for the title next week are Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell, race-winner Ryan Blaney, and William Byron.

Below is a breakdown of how each eliminated driver fared at Martinsville.

Denny Hamlin (-8 points)

Photo by Kyle Stephens/TRE

Hamlin, a five-time Martinsville winner, started the race in a 17-point hole.

Hamlin started fourth, placed first and second in the stages and led the most laps (156).

Yet, for the second season in a row, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver fell out of the Round of 8. Hamlin finished fourth.

“I just want to get ready and go try to win next week,” Hamlin said. “I still love it so much because every week I feel like I got a shot to win. That’s what fuels my passion, even at my age, to keep doing this. I’m with the team that I got. They give me such fast cars every week and give me a chance to continue to pile on those stats before the end of my career. 

“It’s not over by any means. We got a long way to go.”

Martin Truex Jr. (-28)

Martin Truex Jr. streaks across the start-finish line during NASCAR Cup Series qualifying, October 28, 2023, at Martinsville Speedway. Photo by Erick Messer/TRE

Truex started the race 17 points behind the cutline.

Winning the pole, Truex led the first 47 laps and earned eight stage points. Yet, a Stage 2 pit road speeding penalty made for a tough rebound for the No. 19 team.

Truex ultimately finished 12th.

“I felt like we had a really strong car,” Truex said. “I don’t think we could have beat the 12 (Ryan Blaney). He was really, really strong. We were definitely close. Something to work on for next time.”

“Really disappointed. I mean, I thought I was well under speed leaving that box. Clearly we were speeding, so we have something to look at there. It’s devastating. That’s racing.”

Points earned during the regular season helped carry the regular-season champion through the first two rounds. It didn’t get him to the Championship 4.

Tyler Reddick (-43)

Photo by Kyle Stephens/TRE

Reddick started the race with a 10-point deficit to the cutline.

Starting 19th, Reddick failed to collect stage points. He ultimately finished 26th, two laps down.

“It was a tough day,” Reddick said. “We were having issues with voltage, and some of the cooling systems were cutting in and out.

“It got really, really hot – that is for sure, but it wasn’t going to waver my willingness to drive really, really hard there. I was really hoping to get something more out of our day.”

Chris Buescher (-58)

Photo by Kyle Stephens/TRE

Buescher started the day 43 points behind the playoffs in a virtual must-win situation.

Buescher started 18th and finished eighth in the 500-lap race.

Despite not advancing to the Championship 4, Buescher made his deepest playoff run.

“We needed a little bit more obviously to win this thing and move on,” Buescher said. “We knew that was gonna be the case, but I’m extremely proud of our year all things considered. 

“Coming into this, we knew that as long as I felt like I got out of the car and couldn’t walk anymore and nobody felt like we left anything on the table, then it’s all something to be proud of and I certainly am.”

Dominic Aragon View All

I am a co-owner and reporter for

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