Who’s in the headline
Joey Logano knew he had a chance to go to Homestead and challenge for a championship. It was going to take some old school, short track racing but he wasn’t afraid to do it. In Turns 3 and 4, where the greats of the sport have moved competitors to win since the very first year of NASCAR, Logano put the bumper to Martin Truex Jr. to beat him back to the line and take the win. Denny Hamlin claimed the first stage while Logano grabbed the green and white checkered for the second stage before the race win.
The first 400 laps of the race were rather uneventful. Kyle Busch won the pole and led the first 30 laps of the race before Hamlin ran him down and passed his teammate for the top spot. Jeb Burton brought out the first caution of the race with a spin in Turn 2 on lap 43. Kyle Busch regained the lead coming off of pit road and led the next 70 laps before Hamlin took the top spot again to grab the win in stage one. Logano was the first car off of pit road after the conclusion of the first stage and, with no caution flags in the second stage, led all 130 laps of the stage to score the win.
In the final stage, William Byron wrecked out in Turn 4. Just before that incident, Truex took the top spot away from Logano. On the restart, it was Logano back at the point for another 42 laps which included a caution for Timmy Hill having a flaming failure in his car that stopped at the entrance to pit road. Kyle Larson blew up on lap 397 and the subsequent caution flew for 17 laps. As the race went back to green Brad Keselowski grabbed the lead for 41 circuits after four green flag laps. The caution flew one more time for a spin by Clint Bowyer and Logano’s pit crew got him out of the pits first.
He led the remainder of the race with his teammate on his bumper and quarter panel and then Truex, including a hair-raising final six laps where the two cars ran side-by-side without making much contact at all. Truex beat Logano to the line for the white flag, cleared Logano onto the backstretch and led him into Turn 3.
Logano put the bumper to Truex in the middle of Turns 3 and 4, pulled alongside as they pulled onto the front straight. The two cars came together, Truex got out of shape and bounced off of Logano before the No. 22 pulled ahead. Hamlin made a late charge and beat Truex to the line, nearly catching Logano.
Why you should care
In the post-race interviews, Truex Jr. made the statement that Logano won the battle but won’t win the war. Whether Truex has a shot to win at Homestead or not, it is a safe bet that the No. 78 is going to make it as difficult as possible to run all of the laps in the final race of the season. The one thing that is unquestionable, Martinsville always produces and we need more short track races on the schedule. There are six or 11 of them, depending on your definition of a short track, but there should be at least 18. There is no reason that the schedule is not made up of at least half short tracks.
What your friends are talking about
In 2015 and in 2017, we saw drivers get wrecked from the lead. One was by a lapped car, one was by a driver going for a win. This race ended with a classic bump and run. Depending on your take on whether rubbin’ is racin’ or not, the end of this race did not see the leader facing the wrong direction or in a steaming hulk. Martinsville Speedway has been on the Cup schedule since year one, hosting 140 races. Since Red Byron took home $1,500 for the first race, drivers have been bumping people out of the way to take leads and wins. When it comes around next time, Truex might handle it a little differently.
Jimmie Johnson is going to have a sponsor for the next two years. Ally Financial is on board to be the primary sponsor for all 36 races for 2019 and 2020. Johnson has told anyone who’ll listen that he’s not retiring and is going to keep racing. This would seem like a logical statement that he’s going to be in the No. 48 for at least two more years. Not only is this a big deal for Hendrick Motorsports and the No. 48 but it is a big deal for NASCAR to have a top 20 financial institution committed to being a full-time, primary sponsor for two years.
We continue to hear how the schedule needs an overhaul and we need more short track races. We may see both of them in the very near future. Marcus Smith and SMI are working at enticing national touring series races to Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway. We are now also hearing that Curtis Francois, the owner of Gateway Motorsports Park, is throwing its hat into the ring for a Cup race and would be interested in the new idea of mid-week races. The 1.1.25-mile track has drawn in big crowds with its return to the IndyCar schedule and it has supported Trucks for some time, as well as adding the K&N Pro Series this season. Another track on the Cup schedule would be a welcome addition.
The 2019 rules package was tested at Charlotte Motor Speedway this week. Daniel Hemric, Aric Almirola, Erik Jones and Byron turned laps in the new rules package and all seemed pleased. There are choices that can be made to add downforce or trim out for speed. When the car gets in a pack it will obviously handle differently but it had more horsepower than the All-Star package and it seems that the drivers won’t be able to stay flat out all race long.
It appears that Comcast, the one time favorite to purchase NASCAR, is most likely out of the running. The company just paid $40B for Sky, the British telecommunication company that is most familiar to racing fans as the company that provides the feed for ESPN’s Formula 1 coverage. This isn’t to say that another suitor might not still be in play but Comcast seemed to be the logical high bidder and they are now out of contention.
Who is mad
Unquestionably Truex is the maddest of everyone. He chose to race Logano super clean over the last six laps and Logano moved him to grab the win. Different drivers choose to race different styles and Truex is in the super clean category. While many drivers are credited with being super clean, few of them are remembered as stars of the sport. Mark Martin was extra clean, not remembered as a champion. Carl Edwards, predominantly known as very clean, not remembered as a champion. While Truex is a champion, he is going to be remembered for not racing rough and people will wonder what that cost him.
Larson had another mechanical failure. The driver of the No. 42 has to be about done with the Chip Ganassi Racing organization. He’s one of the best racing talents in the garage and the thought was he would be a consistent contender for titles by now. Unfortunately, the people putting cars together for him have continuously failed him. We saw the chattering left rear at Charlotte and, since then, the team has just seemed out of step. Everyone knows that Larson is going to end up at Hendrick, most likely when Johnson moves on. If he keeps getting bad race cars, he just might move on even before the No. 48 opens up.
Who is happy
Ty Dillon managed his second top-15 run of the season on a non-plate track. The Germain Racing entry has been showing minor moments of excellence but has been unable to string them together. Dillon was 15th at Talladega two weeks ago and 15th Sunday. His other non-plate top 15 of the season was at Texas so they just might finally be able to string two of them together in successive races.
JTG Daugherty gets a combo mention in this section this week. Chris Buescher crossed the line in 13th position, one spot ahead of his teammate AJ Allmendinger. The little team that has great potential had another good run this weekend. Allmendinger is always strong at Martinsville, and he’s on his farewell tour as he won’t be in the No. 47 next year. Going up against the mid-tier teams with a smaller budget than most of them, JTG continues to overachieve.
When the checkered flag flew
Joey Logano racked up his 20th career victory in his 360th career start.
This is Logano’s first triumph ever at Martinsville Speedway.
For 2018 this is Logano’s second win and it locks him into the Championship 4 title contenders at Homestead-Miami.
20 career victories put Logano in 40th on the all-time list, in a tie with Speedy Thompson
Denny Hamlin stole second place in the chaos coming to the line on Sunday.
Hamlin has two second-place finishes in 2018, both in the last four races.
This is Hamlin’s eighth career top two finish in Martinsville.
For his career, Hamlin has been the runner-up 23 times which ties him for 35th on the all-time list with Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne, Brad Keselowski and Dick Rathman.
Rounding out the podium was Martin Truex Jr. who finished third after the contact coming out of Turn 4.
This is Truex’s second top three of his career at Martinsville.
For the season, Truex has 11 top three runs.
In his career, Truex has ended on the podium 57 times, which is 43rd on the all-time list.
Darrell Wallace Jr. won his third consecutive Rookie of the Race with his 34th-place finish.
For the year, Wallace’s 13 awards are seven behind William Byron’s 20.
Round three of the playoffs is here. Eight drivers are eligible to win the title but only four will advance beyond this round. Joey Logano is the first to advance thanks to his victory at Martinsville. The playoff contenders are listed below with their associated points. The eight drivers eliminated from title contention are listed because they are still eligible to finish as high as fifth. Race winners are bolded and will automatically advance to the next round.
1) Kyle Busch – 4104
2) Martin Truex Jr. – 4083
3) Kevin Harvick – 4083
4) Joey Logano – 4074
5) Kurt Busch – 4058
6) Chase Elliott – 4052
7) Clint Bowyer – 4041
8) Aric Almirola – 4033
9) Ryan Blaney – 2232
10) Brad Keselowski – 2227
11) Denny Hamlin – 2213
12) Kyle Larson – 2179
13) Jimmie Johnson – 2173
14) Alex Bowman – 2164
15) Erik Jones – 2159
16) Austin Dillon – 2157
What is in the cooler (one to six beers where one is a stinker and six is an instant classic)
A great finish can resurrect a crappy race. For the first 400 laps, this race was an uneventful parade. Over the final 100 laps, it was wide open with action all over the track. In the end, Logano moved Truex to take the win and lock himself into the Championship 4 for Homestead. As a result we’ll give this one four ice-cold Balladeers from Ballad Brewing.
Where do you point your DVR for next week
Race two of round three of the playoffs will take the green flag at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, Nov. 4 with coverage starting at 3 p.m. ET. Action can be seen on NBCSN and streamed on the NBC Sports app. To listen to the race tune to your local PRN affiliate, log onto www.goprn.com and SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90.
About the author
What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.