Welcome to Sports Obsessive’s coverage of Xfinity 500! The penultimate race of the 2020 NASCAR season got underway at the oldest and shortest track on the scheduled: Martinsville Speedway. As non-Playoff contender, Kyle Busch won last week at Texas, which left three spots available to advance with Joey Logano to the championship race at Phoenix.
Shortly after 11:15 am PST, and under sunny skies, Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr. to his outside led the field to green. Keselowski was able to hold the lead with Truex Jr. lined up in second. Truex Jr. dove to the inside and took the lead away on Lap Five with Denny Hamlin moving to second. As the first part of the race continued, Chase Elliott made his way to second with Truex Jr. in his sights. The competition caution came out on Lap 60 with Truex Jr. maintaining the lead. All lead lap cars came down to the pits for their first stops of the day. The top two drivers, Truex Jr., and Elliott exited first and second.
Truex Jr. brought the field back to green on Lap 69 with Elliott to his outside. Truex Jr. held onto the lead with Chase Elliott falling in line in second. The first caution of the day for an incident as Clint Bowyer got spun by his teammate Aric Almirola going into Turn One. Truex Jr. led the field back to green on lap 80 with Chase Elliott to the outside. Truex Jr. held the position with Chase Elliott in hot pursuit. Chase Elliott took over the lead going into Turn One on Lap 90 with a pass to the inside of Truex Jr.
The third caution of the day came out on Lap 104 as Garrett Smithley came to a stop exiting Turn Four. While Elliott and Truex Jr stayed out, the lead lap cars behind them came down to the pits for tires and fuel. With 21 laps left in the stage, Elliott and Truex Jr. brought the field back to green. Using fresher tires, Denny Hamlin powered his way to the lead with 17 laps left in Stage One. Joey Gase brought out the fourth caution of the day after getting spun by Quinn Houff. Denny Hamlin led the field back to green with Chase Elliott to the outside. Hamlin pulled away with the lead as Alex Bowman moved up to the second position. With no challengers, Hamlin cruised to his first stage win of the day. Denny Hamlin led most of the lead lap cars down to pit road, with Elliott exiting first.
Kyle Busch led the field back to green on Lap 140 with Kurt Busch to his outside. After a multi-lap side-by-side battle for the lead, Kurt Busch took over the lead from his younger brother. Chris Buescher brought out the caution on Lap 147 after dropping fluid on the track. With Chase Elliott to his outside, Kurt Busch brought the field back to green on Lap 159.
Kurt Busch was able to maintain the lead as Chase Elliott moved to second. Chase Elliott made a move around Kurt Busch, taking the lead, with Denny Hamlin following in second. With 80 laps left in the race, the regular-season points leader had to make a green flag pitstop for a flat tire. Not long after, Brennan Poole slammed the outside wall, bringing out the caution. All lead lap cars entered the pits for service with Chase Elliott holding onto the lead.
Chase Elliott brought the field back to green on Lap 193 with Martin Truex Jr. to the outside. Elliott was able to maintain the lead as Denny Hamlin maneuvered into the second position. John Hunter Nemechek brought out the caution on Lap 215 for a single-car spin. Denny Hamlin lined up on the front row and brought the field back to green on Lap 222. Hamlin was able to hold the first position, with Ryan Blaney moving up to second. Chase Elliott got around Denny Hamlin and took over the lead on Lap 241. Chase Elliott won his tenth stage of 202 as he took Stage Two. All lead lap cars came down to the pits for service, with Elliott retaining the lead. Denny Hamlin had to make a second stop to tighten the lug nuts on his tires.
Stage Three commenced with Elliott and Truex Jr. on the front row. Elliott was able to fend off a charge from Truex Jr. and held onto the lead. Timmy Hill brought an end to the longest green-flag run of the day on Lap 352, suffering a flat tire. All lead lap cars came down to the pits for service with Joey Logano assuming the lead.
Joey Logano led the field back to green on Lap 359 with Truex Jr. to the outside. Logano was able to hold the lead as Ryan Blaney made his way to second. With 132 laps left, Blaney made his way to the inside of Logano and retook the lead. James Davison brought out the caution with 102 laps left in the race after losing power on the track. With this caution, Kevin Harvick was able to get his lap back and rejoined the lead lap cars. All lead lap cars returned to the pits for tires and fuel, with Logano winning the race out back onto the track. Playoff contender, Brad Keselowski, suffered a pit road penalty for speeding.
Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr. led the field back to green with 92 laps remaining. Using the outside lane, Truex Jr. took the lead coming out of Turn Two, with Logano falling to second. The 12th caution of the day came out with 60 laps remaining as William Byron backed his car into the wall. The lead lap cars came down to the pits for the last scheduled stops of the day. Truex Jr. was able to hold the lead, with Logano exiting in the second position.
Corey Lajoie, by not pitting, and Martin Truex Jr. left the field back to green with 51 laps remaining. Truex Jr. was able to clear Lajoie for the lead, with Chase Elliott following in second. With 44 laps left in the race, Chase Elliott dove deep into Turn Three and got around Truex Jr. to the inside, taking the lead.
Truex Jr. made an unscheduled pit stop with 25 laps remaining for a loose wheel, ending his chance to compete for the championship. With no one to compete with him, Chase Elliott took the Xfinity 500 and won his way to the Championship Four. On the last turn, needing one position, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch made contact, spinning both cars. With that spin, the dominant driver of the 2020 NASCAR season, Kevin Harvick, missed out on his chance to compete for the NASCAR Championship.
Martinsville provided the short track drama that one would hope. With drivers beating and banging, there was no lack of excitement and on-track action. Going to Phoenix next weekend, Chase Elliott, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, and Brad Keselowski will fight it out for the championship. Who’s your pick for the 2020 NASCAR championship?