OBSERVATIONS: Xfinity 500 at Martinsville Speedway

By: Ashley McCubbin

The NASCAR Xfinity Series race concluded with a dump and run. In contrast, the NASCAR Cup Series event ended with a move right out of a video game. There’s a reason why the drivers in training battle on Saturday, while the professionals put on a show on Sundays. This was an example of that.

Just like the day before, there was a lot of contact in the finals laps with drivers fighting for their championship dreams. Christopher Bell made contact with the back of Chase Briscoe, but he did not cause the No. 14 to make contact with the wall. Denny Hamlin nudged William Byron, but Byron was able to take the checkered flag. Other examples of bumps can be shared, but ultimately none of them resulted in someone seeing their day end early.

Respect was the key through this, with everyone knowing what was necessary but not going over the edge. That was why the post-race was filled with cheers for all involved, instead the drown of boos expressed by the public court of opinion the day before.

For the second time in the playoffs, Bell put together a victory right when he needed to for ability to transition to the next round. Being able to perform exactly when necessary right on the term of a dime is necessary in a format of this nature, and makes him a credible threat going into next week. If he’s done it twice already, what’s stopping him from repeating that performance at Phoenix Raceway?

Ross Chastain showed he is willing to do what it takes to be a champion, but not go over the line in the process. Utilizing a move right out of a video game, he held it wide-open and used the wall to turn himself around turns three and four and pass four cars, including Hamlin, to become the last driver to transfer. Although some of his competitors critiqued the move, you cannot fault him for doing what was necessary – as it could have easily resulted in a wrecked racecar and the same result of not trying it with being out of the playoffs. Other drivers have tried similar moves – Carl Edwards on Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Larson on Hamlin – and failed.

Joey Logano proved he can perform when it’s necessary, as evident by his win to be apart of the Championship 4. He also ran well at Martinsville to give himself momentum going into next week.

Chase Elliott is where concern lies, despite Hendrick Motorsports having won the most recent pair of championships. The 2020 Champion has failed to perform through the last three races, with races in the teens and barely contending for the lead at times. The only reason he has a shot is thanks to the points accumulated through the season – hey, something for those that say nothing else matters through the year. Is it possible for him to turn the wick up when it matters against the aforementioned threesome?

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