Ryan Blaney will go to the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Four as the most recent winner as he won Sunday at Martinsville Speedway.
Going into Sunday, Blaney led the series in terms of average finish (9.5) and had only one finish worse than 11th since fall 2017, including two runner-up finishes.
However, Sunday was his first win at the 0.533-mile Virginia short track.
Blaney entered the race just 10 points above the cutline. Chomping at that advantage, from 17 points back, were Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. – the all-time Cup Series wins leaders at Martinsville.
Blaney answered the call, placing second and first in the stages.
STAGE ONE TOP-10 (LAP 130): Hamlin, Blaney, Truex, Chase Briscoe, Brad Keselowski, Christopher Bell, Ty Gibbs, Ryan Preece, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick
STAGE TWO TOP-10 (LAP 260): Blaney, Hamlin, Briscoe, Logano, Keselowski, Gibbs, Preece, Todd Gilliland, Harvick, Bell
Blaney led four times for 145 laps and battled Denny Hamlin hard, almost coming to blows on the backstretch. Cooler heads and strategy prevailed as Blaney passed Hamlin, ran down Aric Almirola for the lead and led 23 laps to win.
TOP-10 FINISHERS: Blaney, Almirola, Hamlin, Briscoe, Logano, Larson, Bell, Buescher, Austin Cindric, Gilliland, Bubba Wallace, Truex
FINAL ROUND OF 8 STANDINGS
- Kyle Larson – WIN (Las Vegas)
- Christopher Bell – WIN (Homestead-Miami)
- Ryan Blaney – WIN (Martinsville
- William Byron: +8 points
- Denny Hamlin: -8
- Martin Truex Jr: -28
- Tyler Reddick: -43
- Chris Buescher: -58
12 lead changes: Truex laps 0-47, Hamlin 48-193, Blaney 194-218, Hamlin 219-226, Blaney 227-228, Hamlin 229, Blaney 230-324, Hamlin 325, Elliott 326-331, LaJoie 332-334, Elliott 335-411, Almirola 412-477, Blaney 478-500
Six leaders: Hamlin (4x for 156 laps), Blaney (4x for 145 laps), Elliott (twice for 83 laps), Almirola (66 laps), Truex (47 laps), LaJoie (three laps)