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October 26, 2023

Martinsville playoff race 101: Round of 8 update, trends to watch, tire info

The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season has reached its penultimate event. The Championship 4 will be decided Sunday at Martinsville Speedway (2 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, NBC Sports App), and the fight for the final two spots couldn’t be any more competitive as three title favorites have yet to punch their ticket to Phoenix.

Before the green flag drops, see how the Round of 8 looks ahead of Sunday, trends to watch for the race, a brief history of NASCAR’s shortest track and Goodyear tire info.

RELATED: See paint schemes for Martinsville | Betting favorites for Sunday’s Cup race


The Virginia short track has been around longer than NASCAR’s existence, with the first race being held for modified stock cars in 1947. The first NASCAR-sanctioned event came a year later, followed by the first Cup Series race in 1949, which was won by Red Byron.

The first 12 races at Martinsville were run on dirt.

The introduction of the grandfather clock trophy came in 1964, first awarded to Fred Lorenzen. Richard Petty owns the most clocks with 12, followed by Darrell Waltrip (11), Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson (nine each).

Sunday’s Cup race will be the 150th at Martinsville, second to Daytona International Speedway (153).

(Via Racing Insights)


Unlike last year, no miracle last-lap efforts can save a playoff driver’s title hopes, so getting quality track position quickly will be of the highest importance on Sunday. Qualifying could pay off with awarding points in Stage 1, but as we saw in the spring, a mistake on pit road could find you at the back of the pack and your race-win and championship hopes dashed.

While not yet locked in, William Byron holds a comfortable 30-point cushion to the elimination line and is likeliest to join Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell in the Championship 4. Byron owns three top-five finishes in the last five Martinsville events.

Ryan Blaney has never made the Championship 4 but has a golden opportunity to make it on Sunday as he enters 10 points above the elimination line. He’s trending toward a big points day as well, with top-10 finishes in the last three Martinsville races.

MORE: Racing Insights’ projections for Sunday


— Six different drivers won the last six Martinsville races.

— Ford is winless in the last eight Martinsville races.

— The last two Martinsville winners started 20th (Bell) and 19th (Larson).

— The final lead change came with 30 laps or less to go in four of the last five Martinsville races.

(Via Racing Insights)


2001: Dale Jarrett and Ricky Craven battle hard for the victory | WATCH

2014: Dale Jr. wins one and only grandfather clock | WATCH

2018: Truex, Logano photo finish sends Logano to Champ 4 | WATCH

2022: Ross Chastain’s iconic “Hail Melon” move to make Champ 4 | WATCH


Saturday, Oct. 21

— 12:35 p.m. ET: Practice (USA, NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

— 1:20 p.m. ET: Qualifying (USA, NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, Oct. 22

— 2 p.m. ET: Xfinity 500 (NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, NBC Sports App)

MORE: Full weekend schedule at Martinsville


Being a short track with relatively long straightaways, very little banking and tight corners, Martinsville Speedway traditionally produces close racing, a lot of contact on the track and hot tempers. Cup teams will have a new tire set-up at Martinsville, designed with a thicker gage – or tread thickness – and tested at Richmond Raceway in August.

Teams will be allotted one set of tires for practice, one set for qualifying and an additional nine sets for Sunday’s race.

(Via Goodyear Racing)

RELATED: See rules changes for 2023


Fans can get in on the action all season long with NASCAR Fan Rewards, a free program that rewards fans for participating in the action when they watch races and play NASCAR Fantasy.

There’s no cost to join. Fans must be 18 years or older to participate in the program.

Earn points by checking into a race from home or at the track, setting your Fantasy Live lineup, making purchases on the shop, and more. Points can be redeemed for race tickets, merchandise, and VIP experiences at the track, including pace car rides and waving the green flag at qualifying.



NASCAR Mobile has now added support for fans to “Follow the Race” and access live leaderboard and race information from Live Activities in the current app release (v13.2.0), available now. Android users, we didn’t forget you — the same functionality has been custom-built for Android devices, as well.

How to access Live Activities on iPhones:

  1. Make sure your iOS device has been updated to 16.1 or higher.
  2. Available on the leaderboard of all NASCAR Series races.
  3. Click on the three-dot menu near the top right of the screen.
  4. Select “Follow the Race.”
  5. Swipe up to access the home screen, and you will see the Live Activities at the top.
  6. Lock the device, and you will see Live Activities on the Lock Screen.
  7. To turn it off, simply visit the leaderboard, click the three-dot menu, and “Unfollow the Race.”


Get additional camera views by logging on to NASCAR Drive, where each week, a select number of in-car cameras will be available — as well as a battle cam and an overhead look.

NASCAR has partnered with LiveLike to add fan engagement to the NASCAR Mobile App. Log in to the mobile app during the race for polls, quizzes, the cheer meter, and more — and see instant results from NASCAR fans like you.