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October 28, 2023

Martinsville live blog: All the updates from the Round of 8 elimination race

We’re bringing you live updates covering Sunday afternoon’s NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 8 elimination race from Martinsville Speedway, the Xfinity 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, NBC Sports App). Bookmark this page and check back often as we chronicle the action from the Virginia short track.


  • The 0.526-mile Martinsville Speedway hosts the 500-lap Round of 8 playoff elimination race on Sunday afternoon. Leaving the weekend, we’ll have our 2023 Championship 4.
  • Kyle Larson (Las Vegas) and Christopher Bell (Homestead-Miami) have already clinched their spots in the championship race with Round of 8 victories, leaving two entries up for grabs among six remaining contenders.
  • At least one driver will advance to the Championship 4 based on points. At 30 points above fifth place, William Byron’s in the best position to advance without a win, but at Martinsville, that’s far from a guarantee.
  • Ryan Blaney enters the weekend as the fourth-ranked driver 10 points above Tyler Reddick in fifth. Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin are 17 points below the elimination line after a pair of DNFs last week in Miami. Chris Buescher is 43 points shy of the current top four, a virtual must-win situation.

Links to keep handy:

All times listed are Eastern.

Sunday, October 29

6:30 p.m., checkered flag: Thanks for following along with our live blog! We’ll be back at it again next Sunday for the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race, where Christopher Bell, Ryan Blaney, William Byron and Kyle Larson will battle it out for the 2023 title crown and the Bill France Cup trophy.

6:11 p.m., checkered flag: It’s hard to think of a cooler trophy than the Martinsville grandfather clock.

Ryan Blaney embraces Martinsville grandfather clock

6:02 p.m., checkered flag: Ryan Blaney was seeded 12th to start the playoffs and now he’s in the Championship 4. It pays to perform under pressure.

Ryan Blaney celebrates Martinsville win
James Thomas | NASCAR

5:55 p.m., checkered flag: Two drivers are making their first-ever Championship 4 appearance: William Byron and Ryan Blaney. Want to guess the top-two finishers from the Phoenix spring race? Yep … Byron and Blaney.

5:50 p.m., checkered flag: Overshadowed by all the championship talk, a few drivers had much-needed strong finishes. Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Aric Almirola (second) and Chase Briscoe (fourth) scored their best finishes of the season. Austin Cindric (ninth) scored his fifth top 10 of the year, and Todd Gilliland (10th) picked up his fourth top 10 of 2023.

5:45 p.m., checkered flag: Chris Buescher, Denny Hamlin, Tyler Reddick and Martin Truex Jr. are the four drivers eliminated. This is the second year in a row Hamlin’s had a late-race heartbreak at Martinsville keeping him out of the Championship 4.

5:42 p.m., checkered flag: No burnout for YRB this time, back to his usual celebration. He’s downright ecstatic after climbing out of the car. This is his 10th career win and his first at a track shorter than 1.5 miles. And now he gets a sweet grandfather clock!

5:40 p.m., checkered flag: Ryan Blaney is making laps around the speedway in reverse, waving at the fans after his victory — Alan Kulwicki’s “Polish Victory Lap.”

5:37 p.m., Lap 500: Ryan Blaney wins at Martinsville! He’ll advance to the Championship 4, joining Christopher Bell and Kyle Larson. William Byron also advances on points.

5:36 p.m., Lap 496: Tyler Reddick has stopped for a splash of fuel. Stick a fork in the No. 45’s season.

5:34 p.m., Lap 491: Chase Elliott has finally made his way to pit road. That’s another spot for his teammate, William Byron. Meanwhile up front, Blaney’s got things under control.

5:32 p.m., Lap 485: Leader Ryan Blaney has caught and lapped William Byron, who runs 14th. Byron’s safe to advance running there at the expense of Hamlin.

5:29 p.m., Lap 477: New leader, Ryan Blaney. Blaney made another outside-lane pass, this time by Aric Almirola.

5:28 p.m., Lap 475: Just 25 to go. Ryan Blaney has caught Aric Almirola for the lead. Meanwhile, William Byron is picking up positions mid-pack. This is all bad news for Denny Hamlin, who’s desperately clinging to fourth spot.

5:24 p.m., Lap 464: Ryan Blaney is carving through the field, now running second and running down leader Aric Almirola. Denny Hamlin is six seconds behind Blaney.

5:23 p.m., Lap 460: Forty to go. The Championship 4 as it stands is Christopher Bell, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney and William Byron. Denny Hamlin’s three points out, while Chris Buescher (11th), Martin Truex Jr. (18th) and Tyler Reddick (22nd) need to win to keep their championship hopes alive.

5:18 p.m., Lap 448: William Byron runs 18th, but that’s still enough to advance … assuming Denny Hamlin doesn’t win. Hamlin runs fifth currently, second of cars that have enough fuel to finish, behind third-place Ryan Blaney.

5:16 p.m., Lap 440: Fascinatingly, the drivers haven’t gone totally unhinged yet, using bumpers only sparingly. But, I’d bet when the caution inevitably falls, it will trigger a flurry of follow-ups.

5:08 p.m., Lap 420: It’s looking increasingly unlikely that Tyler Reddick (22nd) and Martin Truex Jr. (19th) will advance. They need a miracle.

5:05 p.m., Lap 411: Aric Almirola has moved past Chase Elliott for the lead. Both cars are likely short on fuel, but this has to feel good for Almirola.

5:02 p.m., Lap 400: We’re down to 100 to go. That’s when things tend to get chaotic here.

4:57 p.m., Lap 389: It’s likely that the top four cars — Chase Elliott, Corey LaJoie, Aric Almirola and Erik Jones — will need to pit for fuel before the end of the race. If so, the battle could be between Kyle Larson, Chris Buescher, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Blaney when all is said and done.

4:48 p.m., Lap 363: Chase Elliott has grown his lead to 2.5 seconds over Corey LaJoie. Former leaders Denny Hamlin and Ryan Blaney are running seventh and eighth.

4:41 p.m., Lap 343: Aric Almirola runs third after the No. 10 team’s pit-strategy call. Almirola announced Saturday that he won’t return to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2024.

4:37 p.m., Lap 332: Chase Elliott and Corey LaJoie lead the field to the green. They last pitted on Lap 304, so they opted not to pit under caution.

4:36 p.m., Lap 330: Oh, boy. Here’s a new one: the pace car has stalled on the track. You never know what’s going to happen at Martinsville. The original pace car has been towed behind the wall and they’re preparing the backup.

Backup pace car at Martinsville

4:32 p.m., Lap 326: Pit stops! Numerous cars opted for fuel only, including Aric Almirola and Kyle Larson, who exit pit road at the front of the field. Track position is king today, so it could prove fruitful. Chris Buescher was among those who changed no tires, and it appears he’ll restart in the top 10. That championship berth-day win for the birthday boy could happen.

4:30 p.m., Lap 323: Caution No. 7. Erik Jones and Michael McDowell made contact, sending McDowell’s Ford spinning. Typical Martinsville stuff. This won’t be the last incident of that sort today.

4:29 p.m., Lap 322: William Byron’s car seems to be coming back to life. He’s now running 13th after some adjustments, the highest he’s run all day. That’s bad news for Denny Hamlin, who’s just moved back into second place.

4:26 p.m., Lap 311: Green flag! Behind leader Ryan Blaney, Bubba Wallace moves past Denny Hamlin for second. (Yeah, I said I kept Bubba in my Fantasy Live garage at the 3:46 p.m. update. I never said I was perfect.)

4:19 p.m., Lap 303: Caution No. 6. Ty Gibbs is in the wall again.

4:17 p.m., Lap 300: Let’s take inventory of the points situation with 200 laps to go, shall we?

1. Christopher Bell: Advanced (Miami win)
2. Kyle Larson: Advanced (Las Vegas win)
3. Ryan Blaney: Current leader
4. William Byron: +4 points (running 16th)
— Four drivers advance —
5. Denny Hamlin: -4 points (running second)
6. Tyler Reddick: -20 points (running sixth)
7. Martin Truex Jr.: -30 points (running 17th)
8. Chris Buescher: -59 points (running 12th)

4:13 p.m., Lap 285: We’re green again. Ryan Blaney and Denny Hamlin are still battling it out for the lead.

4:10 p.m., Lap 281: The No. 99 car is rolling again … but not well.

Daniel Suárez car crab walks at Martinsville

4:04 p.m., Lap 275: Daniel Suárez’s car is beached on the apron, immobile on the curb with flat tires to boot. The No. 99 has quite a bit of damage. Among those on the damaged-vehicle policy clock are Denny Hamlin (no damage, don’t worry), Joey Logano, Austin Cindric, Michael McDowell, Todd Gilliland, Ross Chastain, Brad Keselowski, Ty Gibbs and Suárez.

4:03 p.m., Lap 274: Caution No. 5. Joey Logano sends Ty Gibbs for a spin racing for second. Numerous other cars were involved in the stack-up, but it seems no playoff contenders were involved … somehow.

Ty Gibbs spins at Martinsville
Alejandro Alvarez | NASCAR

4:03 p.m., Lap 273: We’re yellow!

4:02 p.m., Lap 270: We’re green!

3:59 p.m., Lap 266: Martin Truex Jr.’s pit-road woes continue. The jack dropped on the No. 19 on pit road, and he’ll line up 25th on the restart.

3:57 p.m., Lap 265: We’ve got split pit strategies as the final stage begins under caution. Blaney and Hamlin are among those who stay out. Tyler Reddick vaulted from 21st to seventh after opting not to pit. We’ll see what track position means to the No. 45.

3:55 p.m., Lap 262: Other than Blaney and Hamlin, Stage 2 was not kind to playoff contenders. Already-advanced Christopher Bell finished 10th in the stage. Chris Buescher was 14th, Kyle Larson (already clinched) crossed the line 17th, and the hard-luck trio of William Byron, Tyler Reddick and Martin Truex Jr. finished Stage 2 20th, 21st and 22nd, respectively.

3:53 p.m., Lap 260: Caution No. 4. Stage 2 belongs to Ryan Blaney. That means 10 points to the No. 12, and nine more for Denny Hamlin’s total after finishing second in the stage.

3:49 p.m., Lap 250: We’re halfway home. Ryan Blaney’s got a half-second cushion over Denny Hamlin, who’s a half second ahead of Chase Briscoe, who’s not far off from following his performance in the Martinsville spring race, where he led 109 laps.

3:46 p.m., Lap 240: If you’re a Fantasy Live player, don’t forget to finalize your lineup and swap out your garage pick if needed before Stage 2 ends in 20 laps. I’m keeping my lineup as-is; I had Bubba Wallace on deck in my garage, but I’m keeping him there since the No. 23 team had a penalty on the last round of pit stops and passing is so, so tough today.

3:43 p.m., Lap 233: Ryan Blaney and Denny Hamlin are trading the lead back and forth, a terrific race among two championship hopefuls. Blaney will come out on top for now.

Ryan Blaney and Denny Hamlin race at Martinsville
Alejandro Alvarez | NASCAR

3:41 p.m., Lap 226: Green flag! Just 35 laps remain in Stage 2, the last opportunity to grab stage points for playoff contenders this season.

3:38 p.m., Lap 222: Look away, No. 19 fans. Martin Truex Jr.’s been busted for speeding on pit road. He’ll go from third to the back of the field. That’s going to be incredibly costly for his championship hopes.

3:36 p.m., Lap 219: Time for pit stops. Denny Hamlin pit crew executed a speedy stop, taking the lead back from Ryan Blaney.

3:33 p.m., Lap 216: Caution No. 3. Ryan Newman’s turned around on the frontstretch after going for a spin off Christopher Bell’s front bumper.

3:31 p.m., Lap 211: Leader Ryan Blaney is fighting hard to put Tyler Reddick a lap down. Reddick, running 25th, is not making it easy for the No. 12.

3:24 p.m., Lap 193: Move Ryan Blaney to the lead. He makes a slick pass on Denny Hamlin’s outside. You don’t see that all the time at Martinsville.

3:19 p.m., Lap 176: Ryan Blaney has closed in to the back bumper of Denny Hamlin’s car as Hamlin navigates lapped traffic. Both drivers are in the Championship 4 as they run, but there’s a long way to go.

3:11 p.m., Lap 155: Close call for Tyler Reddick, who nearly went for a spin the same way he spun out in qualifying. The No. 45 has been shuffled back to 23rd. He’s going to need this day to turn around quickly.

3:07 p.m., Lap 145: Back to green! It hasn’t been a great start to Stage 2 for William Byron, who’s been shuffled out to the high line and is going backwards quickly. He’s fallen out of the top 20. That 30-point cushion entering today is basically gone right now.

3:02 p.m., Lap 135: To pit road we go again … kind of. Many leaders opted to stay out and retain track position, which seems to be at a premium today. For the top three – Hamlin, Blaney and Truex – it’s all about stage points for 125 more laps.

2:58 p.m., Lap 130: Caution No. 2. Stage 1 is in the books; Denny Hamlin picks up the stage win and 10 valuable points. Blaney (second), Truex (third) and Bell (sixth) also pick up points. Not like Bell needed them, though, as he’s already locked in to Phoenix after winning last week in Miami. Kyle Larson (11th), William Byron (12th), Chris Buescher (17th) and Tyler Reddick (19th) did not pick up points in this stage.

2:55 p.m., Lap 122: Ryan Blaney’s on a mission lately. YRB is up to second and he’s in a good place in terms of points … for now.

Ryan Blaney at Martinsville
Alejandro Alvarez | NASCAR

2:47 p.m., Lap 106: Drivers have pulled onto pit road under caution, the first stops of the day. Hamlin and Truex keep the top two spots on exit.

2:44 p.m., Lap 104: Caution No. 1. Alex Bowman and Harrison Burton tussle deep in the field just ahead of leader Denny Hamlin, sending both cars spinning. That could have been big trouble for Hamlin. Corey LaJoie was also involved.

Alex Bowman and Harrison Burton spin

2:43 p.m., Lap 100: Chris Buescher needs to win today in order to advance to the Championship 4. Today is also his 31st birthday. If he can pull off the win today, he’d become the fourth-ever driver to win on his birthday, following Cale Yarborough, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth. Buescher runs 19th currently.

2:38 p.m., Lap 85: Now in the second half of Stage 1, William Byron’s running 14th, just out of the points-paying window. He entered the day 30 points safe, but it’s no sure thing, especially when he’s running sixth of eight in terms of playoff contenders, ahead of only Tyler Reddick (17th) and Chris Buescher (19th).

2:25 p.m., Lap 48: Denny Hamlin has taken over the top spot from his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, the first lead change of the day.

2:20 p.m., Lap 30: Leader Martin Truex Jr. has caught lapped traffic. That’ll be a theme this afternoon.

2:16 p.m., Lap 20: Tyler Reddick needs to get moving soon if he wants to collect stage points. He’s only passed one car since starting 19th, but there are still over 100 laps to go in the first stage. Plan B, of course, is to go for the win, but that checkered flag is a hot commodity today.

Tyler Reddick drives at Martinsville Speedway
James Thomas | NASCAR

2:08 p.m., Lap 1: Green flag is in the air! Martin Truex Jr. leads his rookie teammate Ty Gibbs to kick off this 500-lapper.

Martinsville Speedway crowd
Alejandro Alvarez | NASCAR

2:05 p.m.: Here’s who I’ve got in my Fantasy Live lineup today. I think we’ll see some of these drivers with playoff pressure perform.

Steve Luvender's Fantasy Live lineup: Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Kyle Larson, Bubba Wallace

2:05 p.m.: Martinsville Speedway is sold out this afternoon. Cars are rolling and there’s no turning back now. (Sorry, didn’t mean to sound so dramatic … it’s a big race, though.)

2:00 p.m.: Good afternoon and happy elimination day! Head on over to NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio or the NBC Sports App; it’s time to get going.

No. 19 team member watches flyover at Martinsville Speedway
Alejandro Alvarez | NASCAR

Saturday, October 28

2:35 p.m.: That’s it for the Cup Series today. The Xfinity Series crowns its Championship 4 today from Martinsville at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA Network.

2:33 p.m.: Playoff contenders’ qualifying positions:

  • Martin Truex Jr: first
  • Denny Hamlin: fourth
  • Kyle Larson: fifth
  • Christopher Bell: seventh
  • Ryan Blaney: 11th
  • William Byron: 16th
  • Chris Buescher: 18th
  • Tyler Reddick: 19th

2:30 p.m.: Pole position! The final car on track, Martin Truex Jr., sends his No. 19 to the top of the charts on his first lap with a speedy 20.112-second heater. He’ll need a great run tomorrow to make up 17 points to advance to the Championship 4. And what better place to make it happen than, well, Martin’s Ville? OK, I promise that’s the only time I say that this weekend. (Lineup)

2:18 p.m.: The final round of qualifying has begun. Three Stewart-Haas Racing Fords are among the drivers competing for the pole.

2:10 p.m.: Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Larson, Chase Briscoe, Ryan Preece and Christopher Bell advance from Group B. Let’s see who qualifies on pole.

1:45 p.m.: Ty Gibbs, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Bubba Wallace and Kevin Harvick set the five quickest laps in Group A. They’ll advance to the final round of qualifying, joining the upcoming Group B’s fast five.

1:42 p.m.: Tyler Reddick goes for a spin out of Turn 4 on his second qualifying lap, but the No. 45 car is safe and appears to be damage-free. But, he won’t start in the top 10 tomorrow, meaning stage points won’t come easy for a driver 10 points out of the championship picture.

Tyler Reddick spins during qualifying at Martinsville

1:18 p.m.: That’s it for Group B practice. Martin Truex Jr. was quickest of the bunch with a 20.367-second lap, followed by fellow championship hopeful Ryan Blaney in second. Christopher Bell was seventh and Kyle Larson was eighth, but they’ve got relatively easy weekends since they’re already locked into Phoenix. Denny Hamlin’s Group A time was the fastest overall. On to qualifying!

1:15 p.m.: You might notice the cars are outfitted with windshield wipers this weekend. That’s due to a 2023 rule where a wet-weather package is in place on road courses and some short oval tracks, including Martinsville. No, there’s no precipitation in the forecast – but, if it happens, these cars are good to go.

Joey Logano's car outfitted with a windshield wiper

1:00 p.m.: Group B cars are on track, featuring championship contenders Christopher Bell, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr.

12:56 p.m.: Group A practice is in the books. Denny Hamlin was quickest with a 20.160-second lap. Of the other championship contenders, William Byron was third, Tyler Reddick was eighth, and Chris Buescher was 13th out of 18.

12:50 p.m.: One surprise in Group A practice with five minutes remaining is second-quickest Corey LaJoie, who joins current leader Denny Hamlin as the only driver to turn a lap under the 20.2-second barrier.

12:35 p.m.: Group A cars are rolling off pit road for practice. That group includes championship contenders Chris Buescher, William Byron, Denny Hamlin and Tyler Reddick.

10:35 a.m.: By tomorrow night, we’ll know this year’s Championship 4. Exciting, right? Practice takes place today at 12:35 p.m. ET, aired on USA Network. Qualifying will follow at 1:20 p.m. ET.