Elliott secures first Championship 4 appearance
Updated: Nov 2
By Holly Cain, NASCAR.com
Chase Elliott cruised to an impressive 6.577-second victory over Ryan Blaney on Sunday in the Xfinity 500 at Martinsville Speedway — earning a position in next week’s NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 season finale.
Equally as dramatic was a failed last-lap pass for position that eliminated the regular-season champion and nine-race winner Kevin Harvick from advancing to that final round. Harvick had to pass 2019 series champ Kyle Busch for one position — one point — to be able to advance to next week’s title race and instead the cars crashed after making contact. Harvick ended up 17th, eight points shy of a playoff berth.
With his victory, Elliott, 24, of Hendrick Motorsports, joins Team Penske’s Joey Logano, who advanced to the title race with a victory two weeks ago at Kansas. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin, a seven-race winner, raced his way into the Championship 4 with an 11th-place finish at Martinsville, and Logano’s Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski, who finished fourth Sunday, was the final driver to earn a championship opportunity.
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“Just so proud,” said Elliott, who was ranked sixth in the championship, 25 points below the cutoff line entering the race and was in a must-win position to earn his first chance at NASCAR’s most prestigious championship.
“To be backed into a corner like that and have to win tonight, I feel like that’s what we’ve been missing these past four of five years. To perform when we don’t have a choice. And to do that tonight, I couldn’t ask for a better night. It’s just unreal.”
Elliott, who led a race-best 236 of the 500 laps, took the lead for good with 43 laps remaining after passing Martin Truex Jr., who thought he had a loose wheel. Truex, who also needed to win to advance to the Championship 4 for the fourth straight year, nursed his car home in 22nd place instead.
After taking the lead, Elliott was able to drive away from the field and Team Penske teammates Blaney, Logano and Keselowski, who finished second, third and fourth, respectively. Playoff drivers Kurt Busch and Alex Bowman — both needing a victory to advance — finished fifth and sixth, followed by Harvick’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Aric Almirola and Clint Bowyer. Matt DiBenedetto rounded out the top 10.
Up next for the NASCAR Cup Series is the Championship 4 finale at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday, Nov. 8 at 3 p.m. ET on NBC/NBC Sports App, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.