What to Watch: Full guide for Xfinity 500 at Martinsville Speedway

2021 Martinsville2
James Gilbert
Getty Image

Xfinity 500 at Martinsville Speedway
(⏰ 2 p.m. ET | 📺 NBC, TSN5 | 📻 MRN, SiriusXM)

Everything you need to know for Sunday’s Round of 8 elimination race and 35th points-paying NASCAR Cup Series event of the 2021 season.

Where: Martinsville Speedway, located in Ridgeway, Virginia
Green flag: 2:12 p.m. ET
Grand Marshal: TBD
Flyover: The Bandit Flight Team
TV/Radio: NBC/NBC Sports App/Peacock, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Forecast: Mostly sunny, with a high near 64 degrees. Northwest wind 5-11 mph, according to NOAA.gov
Race Distance: 500 laps, 263 miles
Stages: 130 | 260 | 500
Pit-road speed: 30 mph
Caution car speed: 35 mph
Race purse:$7,778,099
Martinsville 101: Get the full lowdown
Starting lineup: See the full lineup

Pit-stall assignments: See who is pitting where | Expert breaks down pit selections

2021 Martinsville
James Gilbert | Getty Images

Five to watch

Here are five big storylines we’ll be following at Martinsville Speedway.

1. Four drivers are within six points of the NASCAR Playoffs elimination line entering the Round of 8 finale. At least two drivers will make the Championship 4 on points since Kyle Larson is the only one who has won in this three-race portion, meaning he’s the only one locked into the title battle. At risk of elimination: Ryan Blaney (fifth, -1), Martin Truex Jr. (sixth,-3), Brad Keselowski (seventh, -6) and Joey Logano (eighth, -26). Currently safe: Larson (qualified, two wins), Chase Elliott (second, +34), Denny Hamlin (third, +32) and Kyle Busch (fourth, +1).

2. Martin Truex Jr. puts the “Martin” in Martinsville as of late. The driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota has won three of the last four races at the Virginia short track, including the one previously held this season in April. He was passed for the win in the other. Truex sits two spots and three points below the elimination line, in danger of not making the Championship 4. He could very well point his way in, but a win would guarantee him a spot with no stress. Martinsville’s place on the schedule just might be perfect for Truex.

3. A playoff driver below the elimination line has won the Round of 8 elimination race to advance in the Championship 4 three times. Kevin Harvick, who is no longer title eligible this season, did so in 2014; he was -6 at Phoenix Raceway. Denny Hamlin did from -20 at Phoenix in 2019. And then Chase Elliott did it last year at Martinsville when -25.

4. Kyle Larson has won the last three races in a row — starting at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, then Texas Motor Speedway and continuing the trend at Kansas Speedway. The last driver to win four consecutive races was Jimmie Johnson in 2007, and he won his second of seven championships that year. Larson has never won at Martinsville in 13 starts and averages a 21.1 finish. He placed fifth there earlier this season.

5. Hendrick Motorsports’ 25 wins at Martinsville marks the most wins by a team at a track. The next-best tally is 21 by Junior Johnson and Associates at Bristol Motor Speedway but also Hendrick Motorsports at Dover International Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway. Hendrick Motorsports has two drivers still active in the NASCAR Playoffs: Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott. Only Elliott from the Hendrick Motorsports garage, which also includes Alex Bowman and William Byron, has won at Martinsville before.

Race-day staplesAds Fantasyfastlane Hero

Our biggest pieces of the week – get covered for race day from all angles.

– Power Rankings: Martin Truex Jr.’s time is ticking | Latest rankings
– Paint Scheme Preview:
Spooky Halloween weekend looks | See them all
– Playoff Pulse: Analyzing the field after Kansas | Full breakdown
– Playoff Show:
Does Team Penske have what it takes? | Watch the show
– Debate:
Will Kyle Larson end up as NASCAR great? | Watch the debate
– Bubble Watch:
Lurking Joey Logano should worry drivers | See bubble breakdown
– Fantasy Fastlane:
Heavy on playoff performers | Top plays, sleepers

Get in on the action

Think you know NASCAR? Put your mettle to the test with gaming, fantasy.

– What are the odds?: Betting odds for Martinsville | See them here
– Featured matchup:
Breaking down betting Ryan Blaney vs. Martin Truex Jr. | The Action Network’s pick | See the analysis
– Betting pick:
The 17-1 prop bet to make | Read more
– Jackpot Races:
Team Penske trouble at Martinsville? | Watch for more
– Fantasy advice:
Martin Truex Jr. motivated for Martinsville | Watch for more
– Talking playoffs: How Fantasy Live game works for the postseason | Read more
– On the grid:
How the Cup Series Playoffs Grid Challenge works | Read more
– No risk, big reward: Take a shot at winning cash prizes with the free-to-play Jackpot Races app | Hit the jackpot
– Play it LIVE:
Full guide to 2021 NASCAR Fantasy Live game | Get the FAQ

Memories from MartinsvilleTbt1998mville 922crop

NASCAR heads to the final race in the Round of 8 and second race at Martinsville Speedway, so let’s take a look back at some track history.

– All-time fall wins: Martinsville Speedway | See the list
– 14 times:
Martinsville fall winners who won title | See the champs
– Memory lane:
Most memorable moments at Martinsville | Relive the moments
– Martinsville mayhem:
Years of crumpled cars |Relive the carnage
– A race to remember:
Ricky Rudd, Jeff Gordon battle | Watch 1998 NAPA Autocare 500
– One year ago:
Chase Elliott cashes in on must-win to make Championship 4 | Full race recap

Fast facts

Hard-hitting, race-relevant statistics, brought to you by the experts at Racing Insights.

Ford is winless in the last four Martinsville races after winning the three prior races.
Joe Gibbs Racing drivers were passed for the win in the last two Martinsville races.
– The Stage 2 winner won four of the last six Martinsville races.
– Denny Hamlin won five of eight stages on short tracks this season but has not won a race.
– Four playoff drivers are within six points of the elimination line.

Next Gen update

2021 Nextgen Bowmangray
Alejandro Alvarez | NASCAR Digital Media

– Next steps: Why Next Gen was at Bowman Gray | Read more
– See the scenes:
Photos from Next Gen’s time at Bowman Gray | Scroll the gallery
– One for the history books:
Column on Next Gen at Bowman Gray | Read more
– Clash preview:
Less than 100 days until NASCAR’s in LA | Watch the video
– Stadium tracks:
History of racing around football fields | Watch the video
– Hear that?:
Next Gen’s sound will be ‘amazing’ in LA | Watch the video
– Clint Bowyer’s perspective:
Seat time critical before Clash | Watch the video
– ‘Does everything better:’
Dale Jr. evaluates Next Gen car | Watch the video

Catch the pack

Read up on all the headlines from the week leading up to Sunday’s race.

– Two more races: Other national series set Championship 4 fields | Xfinity preview | Truck preview
– Halloween heroics:
Races ran on the spooky holiday | See the five winners
– Big shots:
Modern-era drivers to win 10 races in a season | See the stars
– One point away:
Ryan Blaney aiming to hit next career milestone | Read more
– Moving up:
Austin Hill to run Xfinity season for RCR | Read more
– Sponsor makes moves:
GearWrench to back Kevin Harvick in 2022 | Read more
– Big picture:
What Bubba Wallace’s win at Talladega Superspeedway means | Read more
– He’s back:
Dale Earnhardt Jr. sets lone 2022 Xfinity Series start | Find out where
– Philanthropic efforts:
2021 Comcast Community Champion of the Year finalist revealed | See the three
– Man in charge:
Joe Fowler named Michigan International Speedway’s new track president | Read more
– Stacking Pennies:
Corey LaJoie’s latest and greatest thoughts | Listen to podcast
– Mark your calendars:
ARCA Menards Series releases 2022 schedule | See the slate

Say what?

Notable quotes from the stars of the sport heading into Sunday’s race.

2021 Bradkeselowski
Sean Gardner | Getty Images

“Martinsville, I made my first-ever NASCAR start there in the Truck Series. It didn’t go very well and I learned so much from it and it’s been a great track for me ever since then. I’ve had some tough breaks. One year we blew a tire and this past year we lost power-steering and had a mechanical failure and then got caught up in a wreck because I didn’t have any steering, so that was not a good run, but outside of that, I feel like we’ve ran 15 maybe 20 races there that have gone really, really well. It’s been a great track for us.” — Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Ford.

“Martinsville has been a really tough track for me in the past. Earlier this year, we were really good there in Hendrick (Motorsports) equipment and I was able to run top five. That run helped my confidence a lot. I think if we can go there and have another good run and, heck, if we can get a win there, yes – I’ll be feeling great going to Phoenix (Raceway).” — Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

“I expect it to be pretty similar (to the April race). We’ll just wait and see how it plays out. Martinsville is funny because it can change 10 or 15 degrees, or the start time of the race can be a little different and you can find yourself being a little off. It’s a funny, quirky little place, but we have a lot of confidence and it’s been good to us over the past few seasons. Hopefully, we can go there and get the job done.” — Martin Truex Jr., driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.