(Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service, MRN.com) Christopher Bell had another miracle in his pocket, but Ross Chastain stole the show with a scarcely believable video-game move in the final corners of the Xfinity 500 at Martinsville Speedway.
For the second time in as many rounds in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, Bell won a race he had to win. After beating pole winner Kyle Larson to the finish line by 0.869 seconds, Bell will race for the series title next Sunday at Phoenix Raceway.
The victory was Bell‘s third of the season and his second in a must-win situation. On Oct. 9, he won the Bank of America Roval 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway to stave off elimination from the playoffs.
But it was Chastain who added most significantly to the lore of the historic 0.526-mile short track with a shocking trip around Turns 3 and 4 that knocked veteran Denny Hamlin out of the playoffs.
Running 10th and facing elimination on the last lap, Chastain pinned his No. 1 Chevrolet to the outside wall entering Turn 3, kept his throttle open and rocketed around the fence as if he had just ignited an afterburner. The amazing move carried Chastain past Hamlin and into the Championship 4. Chastain completed the final lap in 18.845 seconds, 0.864 seconds faster than Larson‘s pole-winning time.
Chase Elliott came home 10th and secured a Championship 4 berth by four points over Hamlin, the same margin Chastain enjoyed. Elliott, Chastain, Bell and Las Vegas winner Joey Logano will race for the series championship at Phoenix.
Ninth-place finisher Chase Briscoe was eliminated from the playoffs, but not for lack of effort. Briscoe stayed out on old tires during the final caution and restarted in the lead with 24 laps left. But Briscoe gave up the top spot to Bell, who had pitted for four fresh tires, on Lap 496 of 500.
Get a look at Sunday’s results and a full picture of the standings heading to Phoenix by following this link.
(Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service, MRN.com) Ty Gibbs took no prisoners Saturday with a race-winning move that dramatically altered the composition of the NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship 4 field.
On the final lap of the third attempt at overtime, Gibbs rammed soon-to-be-ex-teammate Brandon Jones so hard the contact buckled the hood of Gibbs No. 54 Toyota.
The contact sent Jones, who had taken the lead on the previous lap, into the outside wall in Turns 1 and 2, and Gibbs had the lead when NASCAR called the 14th caution of the race because of the wreck.
By then, Gibbs already had clinched one of the two remaining spots in the Championship 4 Round, but the bulldozing move deprived Jones of an opportunity to race for the series title next Saturday at Phoenix Raceway.
As a chorus of boos rained down from the grandstand, Gibbs was unapologetic for that tactic that made him a race winner for the sixth time this season, for the first time at Martinsville and for the 10th time in 50 Xfinity Series starts.
Jones‘ misfortune elevated veteran Justin Allgaier, his soon-to-be-teammate at JR Motorsports, into the final Championship 4 berth. Jones needed a victory to claim the spot, but Allgaier was in a position to advance on points, which he did by 12 points over regular-season champion AJ Allmendinger.
Gibbs and Allgaier will race for the series championship at Phoenix against Josh Berry and Noah Gragson, who earned their spots in the Championship 4 with respective victories at Las Vegas and Homestead-Miami in the Round of 8.
Non-playoff drivers Sheldon Creed and Riley Herbst finished second and third after the late-race melee, followed by the JR Motorsports trio of Gragson, Allgaier and Sam Mayer. Nick Sanchez, Daniel Hemric, Austin Hill and Blaine Perkins completed the top 10.
For a complete recap of Saturday’s Martinsville mayhem, follow this link.