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Comments from eliminated drivers after Martinsville

Photo by Kyle Stephens/TRE

At the conclusion of the Xfinity 500 at Martinsville Speedway Sunday, the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff grid was cut from eight drivers to four.

Below is a breakdown of how short the four drivers fell on advancing to the Championship 4 round.

Denny Hamlin (-4 points)

Photo by Kyle Stephens/TRE

Hamlin was fifth in points, five points below the cutline before the race weekend.

Despite starting 11th, Hamlin swept the first two stages, picking up 20 stage points. He stayed within a transfer position through most of the race and led a race-high 203 laps.

“You got to execute all day,” Hamlin said. “We just didn’t control the race when we had control of it.”

However, Ross Chastain’s wall-riding move on the last lap moved Chastain ahead of Hamlin on the playoff grid, eliminating the Joe Gibbs Racing driver, despite his fifth-place finish.

“That is what it is, great move, brilliant,” Hamlin said of the last-lap move. “Certainly a great move. When you have no other choice, it certainly is easy to do that. But well executed.”

William Byron (-21 points)

Photo by Kyle Stephens/TRE

Byron entered the race fourth in points, five points above the cutline.

Byron started 25th and failed to pick up stage points in the race. He fell a lap down in Stage 1, but earned the free pass after the caution for the end of the stage. Byron ultimately finished seventh.

“Unfortunately, we weren’t really in the game,” Byron said. “I knew that early on in the race, we were making some progress, but we just struggled all day.

“The first three-quarters of the race were pretty miserable. Nothing like what we had in the spring.”

Ryan Blaney (-26 points)

Blaney was sixth in points, 18 points behind the cutline before Martinsville.

Blaney started fourth, and finished inside the Top-10 in the first two stages. The Team Penske driver eventually finished in third place.

“It’s unfortunate not to transfer, but proud of the effort,” Blaney said. “I didn’t do a great job the last two weeks and put us in a bad spot, but I’m proud of everyone all year and we’ll try to go run well at Phoenix.”

Chase Briscoe (-61 points)

Briscoe entered the Martinsville race weekend eighth in the standings, 44 points behind the cutline.

Facing virtually a must-win situation, Briscoe started third and finished the first stage inside the Top-10.

During a late-race caution, Briscoe elected not to pit and inherited the lead with 29 laps to go. Briscoe led the race for 25 laps, before ultimately getting passed by race-winner Christopher Bell with four laps to go. He finished ninth.

“I thought it was gonna work for a second,” Briscoe said. “I thought if the race was 10 less laps I was probably gonna win, but I just fell off a cliff really hard there at the end. It’s unfortunate, but I had a shot. 

“The penalty early in the race killed us. Like I said, it was really hard to pass and had to scrap and claw position by position and it took us a really long time to get back up there, but I thought our car was pretty good towards the end.  It would have been nice to be on even tires, for sure.”

OUTLOOK
Christopher Bell, Ross Chastain, Chase Elliott, and Joey Logano will race for the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series title.

The championship race is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 6, at Phoenix International Raceway.

SOURCES
Ford Performance
Racing-Reference.info
Team Chevrolet
Toyota Racing

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