NASCAR Cup Series playoffs at Martinsville: Ryan Blaney wins race, Hamlin third

Charlotte Observer NASCAR reporter Shane Connuck will be providing updates from today’s Cup Series playoff race at Martinsville Speedway. Follow those musings below. Refresh this page as needed. All times are Eastern.

Live updates have ended. For a look at who made the Championship 4, click here.

Lap 500: Blaney wins at Martinsville! Denny Hamlin finishes third, but William Byron places 13th. Even though Byron was a lap down, that should be enough to put him in position to race for a title next weekend in Phoenix!

Almirola second, Briscoe fourth and Logano fifth to round out the top 5.

Lap 490: William Byron goes a lap down! He’s still 7 points ahead of Hamlin with 10 to go, but if there’s a yellow and a restart... this could get very interesting. Ryan Blaney leads. Hamlin up to third, but it won’t be enough unless Byron falters.

Lap 485: Denny Hamlin cannot get enough points to pass William Byron unless he wins, or unless Byron falls back a few positions. Ryan Blany leading, but that’s inconsequential to that last spot.

Lap 475: William Byron gets a couple of points back by moving into 17th, and Hamlin’s deficit to scond-place Ryan Blaney is now a whopping 7 seconds. That’s not good for the 11 car. Ryan Blaney is now on Aric Almirola’s bumper for the lead!

Lap 465: Denny Hamlin is now up to 4th, and with William Byron slipping to 19th, the gap in points is just 3. Byron holds the edge for now, but Hamlin is getting more aggressive. Aric Almirola still has a comfortable lead of nearly 4 seconds. The question might be, does a second-place finish give Hamlin enough points? Not for anything, Ryan Blany now up to second, as well.

Lap 450: Aric Almirola now is your leader, which does nothing specifically to the playoff field, other than make it harder for the qualified drivers to get in. Ryan Blaney has worked his way back up to third, though. Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson lurk in 5 and 9. But Hamlin, he needs to wither win or get close and have William Byron fall off a bit. Larson? He’s fine after winning earlier in the round of eight.

Lap 425: The cars in front gambled on fuel. The announcing team doesn’t believe that group can make it to the end on fuel. As they run, Ryan Blaney and William Byron would be in the Championship 4, Denny Hamlin the first out, eight points back. But a lot can change here with 75 to go at the paperclip.

Lap 401: Not much movement, but as we enter the final 100 laps at the “Half-Mile of Mayhem,” that may change very quickly.

But as it stands, your Top 10: Chase Elliott, Aric Almirola, Corey LaJoie, Erik Jones, Kyle Larson, Chris Buescher, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Chase Briscoe and Christopher Bell.

Lap 370: It’s tough to tell with cars spread out on the half-mile track in various laps, but Chase Elliott has a substantial lead over Corey LaJoie.

Denny Hamlin and Ryan Blaney are still running in the Top 10. Chris Buescher has surged up to sixth. William Byron remains in the middle of the pack, in 19th, along with Tyler Reddick in 21st and Martin Truex Jr. in 22nd.

Your Top 10: Chase Elliott, Corey LaJoie, Aric Almirola, Erik Jones, Kyle Larson, Chris Buescher, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Chase Briscoe and Christopher Bell.

Lap 333: Chase Elliott and Corey LaJoie led the field to green after that caution period.

Lap 325: Erik Jones hit Michael McDowell, from 22nd, prompting another caution.

Several cars pitted under the caution period. Something unusual — the pace car appeared to have “died.” Some in the sold-out crowd at Martinsville cheered as a tow truck took the pace car off the track. Not something you see every day.

Lap 300: Ty Gibbs spins from 22nd! Another caution!

Ryan Blaney had built a sizeable lead, followed by Denny Hamlin. Several cars are now pitting, while many — including the leaders — stay on the track and hold their positions.

Your Top 10: Blaney, Hamlin, Bubba Wallace, Joey Logano, Austin Cindric, Tyler Reddick, Aric Almirola, Christopher Bell, Kyle Larson and Ryan Preece.

Lap 283: We’re green again!

Hamlin, on his radio, was not happy with Joey Logano. Hamlin and Logano come out of the restart in second and third place, respectively. Logano had spun Ty Gibbs, who hit Hamlin. Several other cars wrecked, including Brad Keselowski’s.

Ryan Blaney keeps leading. Bubba Wallace surges into the Top Five.

Lap 272: Already yellow! Joey Logano hits Ty Gibbs into Denny Hamlin!

Hamlin drives past and holds his second-place position as Gibbs and several cars wreck.

Lap 270: We’re green for the Final Stage!

Ryan Blaney out to the lead with Denny Hamlin keeping him close.

Stage 2

Lap 250: Ryan Blaney paced the field for the last 20 laps and wins Stage 2!

Huge day already for the driver of the No. 12 Ford Mustang, who collected stage points after finishing second in Stage 1. If Blaney finishes ahead of William Byron (currently 20th), Byron will be eliminated.

The Top 10: Blaney, Denny Hamlin, Chase Briscoe, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Ty Gibbs, Ryan Preece, Todd Gilliland, Kevin Harvick and Christopher Bell.

Lap 230: Ryan Blaney opens up a lead of about two car lengths over Denny Hamlin.

Your Top 10: Blaney, Hamlin, Chase Briscoe, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Ty Gibbs, Todd Gilliland, Kevin Harvick and Christopher Bell.

William Byron is 21st; Tyler Reddick is 22nd as he didn’t get a free pass. Martin Truex Jr. down to 23rd after his speeding penalty. Chris Buescher is up to 14th.

Lap 224: We’re green again! Ryan Blaney gets to the inside and is fighting with Denny Hamlin for the lead.

Lap 210: Martin Truex Jr. received a speeding penalty coming off pit road.

Lap 208: Yellow flag!

Moments after Ryan Blaney, still leading, made some light contact, Ryan Newman spun out off Turn 3. Caution comes at an opportune time for Blaney.

Tyler Reddick, running 25th, is the highest lap car and may get a free pass.

Lap 192: Ryan Blaney moves to the outside and passes Denny Hamlin for the lead!

Lap 182: William Byron continues running 22nd, and Tyler Reddick finds himself down to 25th.

Denny Hamlin still hasn’t given up the lead since passing pole-sitter Martin Truex Jr. in Lap 48. Ryan Blaney, who’s already gained crucial stage points, has been running second since the restart for Stage 2.

Lap 155: The field is much more bunched up farther back than it was earlier, and William Byron finds himself in the middle of it.

The field’s leader in wins has slipped all the way back to 24th after failing to collect points in Stage 1.

Your Top 10: Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr., Ty Gibbs, Chase Briscoe, Christopher Bell, Ryan Preece, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott.

Lap 140: We’re green again for Stage 2! Denny Hamlin remains out in front.

Stage 1

Lap 130: Denny Hamlin wins Stage 1!

Hamlin jumped out to second place early and passed pole-sitter Martin Truex Jr. in Lap 48. Ryan Blaney, who entered Sunday above the cut line, collects crucial second-place stage points. William Byron finished 12th and didn’t get any stage points.

The Top 10 from Stage 1 at Martinsville: Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr., Chase Briscoe, Brad Keselowski, Christopher Bell, Ty Gibbs, Ryan Preece, Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick.

Lap 111: Green again! Several cars pitted during the caution, and Denny Hamlin won the race off pit road. Ty Gibbs dropped farther back in the Top 10.

Lap 102: Out comes our first caution!

Alex Bowman spun on Turn 2, causing a pileup in the middle of the field — near the leader, Denny Hamlin, who was a lap ahead. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had bumped Harrison Burton; Bowman tried to pass Burton and was hit by Austin Dillon.

Lap 96: A lot of racing left, but William Byron — who entered Sunday 30 points above the cut line — is running 15th. Ryan Blaney, the other driver not locked into the Championship 4 who entered Sunday above the elimination line, is running sixth.

Lap 74: Still not much movement at the front of the field. Denny Hamlin continues leading, followed by Martin Truex Jr.

Chris Buescher, likely needing a win today to advance to the Championship 4, is running 19th. Your Top 10: Hamlin, Truex, Ty Gibbs, Chase Briscoe, Kevin Harvick, Christopher Bell, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson, Ryan Preece and Bubba Wallace.

Lap 49: Denny Hamlin passes Martin Truex Jr. for the lead!

Lap 40: Today’s 500-lap half-mile course that’ll determine the Championship 4 requires drivers to be fast around more turns and laps than usual.

As the beginning of the race continues, Championship 4 hopefuls Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin find themselves at the front of the pack. The Top 10: Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Ty Gibbs, Chase Briscoe, Kevin Harvick, Christopher Bell, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Ryan Preece and Bubba Wallace.

Lap 15: Not much movement in the early goings of the Xfinity 500. The field looks similar to its starting lineup, with pole-sitter Martin Truex Jr. pacing the field.

Your Top 10: Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Ty Gibbs, Chase Briscoe, Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, Christopher Bell, Bubba Wallace, Ryan Blaney and Ryan Preece.

Green flag, 2:07 p.m.: Green green green! We’re racing at Martinsville!

2:00 p.m.: No cars will drop the rear prior to the green flag, which will wave at 2:07 p.m. Cars are rolling onto the track.

1:25 p.m.: Today’s race is sold out, according to a release from Martinsville Speedway. It’s the second straight year the Xfinity 500 has been a sellout.

12:30 p.m.: Good afternoon from the “Half Mile of Mayhem!”

The green flag will wave at 2:07 p.m. (NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR, NBC Sports App) for the penultimate race of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, where we’ll find out who will join Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell at next week’s Championship 4 in Phoenix.

Oct 28, 2023; Martinsville, Virginia, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Martin Truex Jr. (19) addresses the media at Martinsville Speedway.
Oct 28, 2023; Martinsville, Virginia, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Martin Truex Jr. (19) addresses the media at Martinsville Speedway.

For the second straight week, Martin Truex Jr. has won qualifying and will lead the field to green. The driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry — who enters Sunday’s cutoff race 17 points below the elimination line — has won three of the past eight races at Martinsville.

Oct 28, 2023; Martinsville, Virginia, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Martin Truex Jr. (19) car on pit road prior to practice at Martinsville Speedway.
Oct 28, 2023; Martinsville, Virginia, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Martin Truex Jr. (19) car on pit road prior to practice at Martinsville Speedway.

Odds/predictions for Sunday’s race

Denny Hamlin is the favorite to win Sunday’s Xfinity 500 at 3-1 odds, according to CBS Sports. Hamlin, who like Truex enters Sunday 17 points below the elimination line, leads all current drivers with five career wins at Martinsville, according to Driver Averages. He’s followed by Kyle Larson (13-2), William Byron (8-1), Martin Truex Jr. (9-1) and Brad Keselowski (9-1).

Shane Connuck is predicting William Byron to win his field-best seventh race on Sunday and secure his spot in the Championship 4. Byron has one victory at Martinsville, the fourth of his Cup career last April, and six Top 10 finishes in 11 races at the short track.

How to watch the NASCAR playoffs at Martinsville

Place: Martinsville Speedway (Ridgeway, Va.)

Race: Xfinity 500

Date: Sunday, Oct. 29

Time: 2:00 p.m. ET

TV: NBC, 2 p.m. ET

Streaming: NBC Sports App, NBCSports.com and Peacock

Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 0.526 miles

Stages: Stage 1 ends on Lap 130; Stage 2 ends on Lap 260; and the Final Stage ends on Lap 500

Starting lineup for the Xfinity 500

Position

Driver

Car Number

1

Martin Truex Jr.

19

2

Ty Gibbs

54

3

Chase Briscoe

14

4

Denny Hamlin

11

5

Kyle Larson

5

6

Bubba Wallace

23

7

Christopher Bell

20

8

Kevin Harvick

4

9

Ryan Preece

41

10

Brad Keselowski

6

11

Ryan Blaney

12

12

Aric Almirola

10

13

Ross Chastain

1

14

Chase Elliott

9

15

Joey Logano

22

16

William Byron

24

17

Todd Gilliland

38

18

Chris Buescher

17

19

Tyler Reddick

45

20

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

47

21

Austin Cindric

2

22

Alex Bowman

48

23

Michael McDowell

34

24

Justin Haley

31

25

AJ Allmendinger

16

26

Austin Dillon

3

27

Daniel Suarez

99

28

Harrison Burton

21

29

Erik Jones

43

30

Corey LaJoie

7

31

Kyle Busch

8

32

Carson Hocevar

42

33

Ryan Newman

51

34

Ty Dillon

77

35

JJ Yeley

15

36

BJ McLeod

78