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HomeSportsAuto RacingNAS News: Ryan Blaney wins at Martinsville, reaches Championship 4

NAS News: Ryan Blaney wins at Martinsville, reaches Championship 4


Ryan Blaney scored his first-ever victory at his home track at the most important time.

The Team Penske driver raced his No. 12 Ford into championship position Sunday afternoon, winning the Xfinity 500 NASCAR Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Va.

Blaney passed Aric Almirola with 23 laps remaining around the venerable half-mile track to win for the third time in 2023 and the 10th time in his career.

His victory in the final Round of 8 playoff race earned him a spot in the Championship 4 event next Sunday at Phoenix Raceway, where Blaney, Christopher Bell, Kyle Larson and William Byron will race for the season championship.

On a tough day for the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team, Byron ran only as high as 13th, but his finish in that position was good enough to edge Denny Hamlin by eight points for the final spot in the championship grouping.

Blaney and Byron will be making their first Championship 4 appearances, while Larson and Bell have been in it twice.

“I grew up in High Point so not too far from here … Martinsville is closer to High Point than Charlotte,” said Blaney, a North Carolina native. “I’ve been wanting to win here for a long time. I’ve been super close for many years, and it’s awesome to close it out.”

Almirola, Hamlin, Chase Briscoe and Joey Logano rounded out the top-five finishers in Martinsville.

Like his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Hamlin, polesitter Martin Truex Jr. led some of the way but finished 12th and will miss a title chance — despite being the regular-season champion.

“If we couldn’t find a way to flip track position pit stop-wise, we were never going to get (to the front),” Truex said after he was hit with a speeding penalty near the halfway point while up front. “The field is so tight and so close (back there). … I don’t think we could’ve beaten the 12.”

Added Hamlin: “You’ve got a three-race season, and the 12 car showed up this round, so he deserves to be in that final four with the performance they had today. Phenomenal.”

Tyler Reddick and Chris Buescher — celebrating his 31st birthday Sunday — struggled in the 500-lapper and also failed to advance to the final quartet of title hopefuls.

In his last Cup race in Southern Virginia, 2011 Martinsville spring race winner Kevin Harvick came in 16th.

With two championship positions at stake on the tiny, flat short track, Truex started from the point and led early, but Hamlin showed up in his No. 11 Toyota and grabbed the point at Lap 48.

At Stage 1’s conclusion on Lap 150, Hamlin was first to the checkers and collected 10 bonus points, while Blaney and Truex followed and earned nine and eight, respectively.

However, Blaney took the lead and snared the maximum bonus points at Stage 2’s checkers, with Hamlin running right behind in second.

After the pace car had to be towed off the track for mechanical failure, Chase Elliott assumed the lead with 175 laps left. He led 83 laps but finished back in 17th.

–Field Level Media

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