FOX NASCAR Insider
MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Christopher Bell pulled off another madness to win and advance in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, but Ross Chastain won stunning to the next level for a shot at the cup championship next Sunday.
Chastain intentionally ran his car full on the last two corners and used the wall at Martinsville Speedway to steer his car from 10th to fifth, getting more than the two places he needed on that lap to finish Overtake Denny Hamlin in the semifinals and earn one of the four spots for the championship.
Bell (Martinsville winner), Joey Logano (Las Vegas winner), Chastain (third overall) and Chase Elliott (fourth overall) will battle it out for the Cup title on November 6th at Phoenix Raceway.
“I didn’t know how this was all going to turn out,” said Chastain, who had never made the cup playoffs before this year. “I didn’t know if the physics would work to make it around the corner, but it worked. I’m sure glad it was.”
Chastain’s final lap was 18.845 seconds. The fastest lap all day before was 20.111 seconds around the 0.526 mile loop.
NASCAR Cup Series Highlights
Christopher Bell advances to Championship 4, Ross Chastain makes an insane final move to advance to Championship in Phoenix.
“I can’t believe I’m the guy driving this . . . car, to be honest,” Chastain said while watching the video. “Honestly, I can’t believe I’m in there.”
Hamlin (who missed the cutoff by four points), Ryan Blaney, William Byron and Chase Briscoe were eliminated from the championship fight.
Findings from a wild elimination race:
Bell has another walkoff
Bell won the quarterfinal round eliminator at the Charlotte Road Course in early October with a four tire stop late in the race that allowed him to return for the win.
Three weeks later he was the leader when the warning came out late and took four tires and started sixth with 24 laps to go. He was able to pass cars on older tires to take the lead from Briscoe – who didn’t pit as he also needed a win to progress – with five laps to go.
“It’s definitely been a rollercoaster of emotions,” Bell said of his playoffs.
NASCAR Cup Series in Martinsville
All the highlights from Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway.
Bell felt better coming to Martinsville and his chances than he had in Charlotte three weeks earlier.
“Winning a race in the playoffs, especially the way we did it, is like ‘wow,'” Bell said.
Hamlin falls short
Hamlin thought he was in good shape near the finish as he was two points (positions on the track) ahead of Chastain going into the final lap. But Chastain’s move ended up leaving him a little taken aback.
“Great move,” said Hamlin. “Brilliant. A great move for sure. When you have no other choice, it’s certainly easy – but well executed.”
But it wasn’t just Chastain’s move that doomed Hamlin. Hamlin will also be watching Martinsville and will see another race that got out of hand thanks to slow pit stops as he had a strong car and led 203 of the 500 laps.
The other riders who didn’t progress can say they just got beaten this lap.
William Byron never had a competitive car on Sunday, starting 25th and finishing eighth thanks to a two tire pit stop at the final pit stop. He finished 21 points out of the competition.
Ryan Blaney was third on Sunday, but mistakes in the first two races of the round just put him in too deep a hole, and he finished 26 points uncontested.
And Briscoe held out as long as he could to claim victory. He had a strong car but lost position on track when his tanker failed to release the jerry can and he slid into another pit as Briscoe exited the pit lane. Briscoe finished 57 points out of the contest.
“I thought if the race was 10 laps short I would probably win, but in the end I just fell off a cliff really hard,” said Briscoe of his car’s handling on old tires. “It’s unfortunate, but I had a chance.”
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Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsport, including the past 30 Daytona 500, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene Magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpock breedand sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass.
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