NASCAR Playoffs recap: Cup Series, Round of 8

The green flag waves on the Round of 8 in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs at Las Vegas.
Sean Gardner
Getty Images

Editor’s note: With Champion’s Week in Nashville ongoing, will look back at every playoff round of the 2023 season in all three national series.

Race 1: Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Oct. 15

Winner: Kyle Larson

Key highlights: Kyle Larson dominated the day in the desert but needed two key moments to save his race. The first came at Lap 146 when his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman crashed on the frontstretch, bringing out the caution just three laps after Larson smoked his tires in an incredible save off Turn 2. The second came in the final round of pit stops when Larson lunged from third to first thanks to a fast stop. Christopher Bell charged hard but fell just 0.082 seconds short as Larson took the checkered flag to lock into the Championship 4.

Full race recap: Kyle Larson wins at Las Vegas, clinches Championship 4 berth

At-track photos: Best pictures from Vegas

The No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in Victory Lane at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Alejandro Alvarez | NASCAR Studios

Race 2: Homestead-Miami Speedway, Oct. 22

Winner: Christopher Bell

Key highlights: The complexion of the NASCAR Playoffs changed with 57 laps to go. Leader Ryan Blaney hit pit road with Kyle Larson in tow. Larson followed Blaney to pit road but charged too hard and darted into the sand barrels at the pit wall attenuator instead, triggering a caution flag. Shortly after the ensuing restart, Denny Hamlin suffered a mechanical failure that sent him crashing into the SAFER barrier and ended his day — just one minute before teammate Martin Truex Jr.’s engine expired. Christopher Bell, driving another Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, pounces from third to first after another restart to take the lead charge to the victory, locking into the Championship 4 for the second straight year while fellow playoff drivers Blaney, Tyler Reddick and William Byron finish second, third and fourth respectively.

Full race recap: Christopher Bell holds on for Homestead win, clinches return to Championship 4

At-track photos: Best pictures from Miami

Christopher Bell with the checkered flag after his Cup Series win at Homestead-Miami Speedway
James Gilbert | Getty Images

Race 3: Martinsville Speedway, Oct. 29

Winner: Ryan Blaney

Key highlights: Ryan Blaney entered with a mere 10-point advantage over the elimination line but led much of the race at the 0.526-mile Virginia short track, leading 145 of 500 laps on his way toward winning the Xfinity 500, securing his first trip to the Championship 4. Denny Hamlin led a race-high 156 circuits after starting the race 17 points beneath that elimination line, but even a third-place finish and 19 stage points weren’t enough to advance. William Byron, who netted a season-high six wins, struggled all weekend but managed to move onto his inaugural Championship 4 appearance by eight points over Hamlin. Chris Buescher’s eighth-place finish fell short of advancement after a tough round for the No. 17 RFK Racing team, while Martin Truex Jr. and Tyler Reddick also saw their playoff paths come to an end.

Full race recap: Ryan Blaney wins at Martinsville, joins Bell, Larson, Byron in Championship 4

At-track photos: Best pictures from Martinsville

Drivers eliminated: Denny Hamlin, Chris Buescher, Martin Truex Jr., Tyler Reddick.

Ryan Blaney celebrates his Martinsville win in Victory Lane
Jonathan Bachman | Getty Images