Martin Truex Jr. capped off a dominant Sunday with a victory in the First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia.
Truex, who started third, led 464 of the race's 500 laps. He finished 0.373 seconds ahead of runner-up William Byron. Brad Keselowski, who won the spring race at Martinsville in March, came in third place.
The result means Truex advances to the championship round of the 2019 NASCAR playoffs, with three more spots now up for grabs.
As the race neared its conclusion, Byron slowly chipped away at Truex's lead. The No. 19 car was firmly in control, though, and the only question was whether one of the lapped cars would help open the door for Byron to pull off an improbable comeback.
The Athletic's Jeff Gluck also questioned whether Byron would approach the final stretch with the same kind of aggressiveness as he might have earlier in the season:
Instead, it was a pretty anticlimactic day following last week's Hollywood Casino 400, which went down to the wire in terms of the filling out the final eight drivers in the playoffs.
First Data 500 Results
1. Martin Truex Jr.
2. William Byron
3. Brad Keselowski
4. Denny Hamlin
5. Ryan Blaney
6. Kurt Busch
7. Kevin Harvick
8. Joey Logano
9. Kyle Larson
10. Ryan Newman
According to Driver Averages, Truex led a total of 261 laps in 27 previous races at Martinsville. He also had only five top-five finishes over that stretch.
"I can't believe we won Martinsville," Truex said after the race, per PRN. "I used to be terrible here, just an awesome bunch of guys, what can I say? Can't say enough about everybody on our team and all these guys out here. To get a grandfather clock is pretty exciting."
Joey Logano's day quickly took a turn with 43 laps to go. Denny Hamlin had forced him into the wall, the result of which caused his left front tire to rub against the wheel well. The problem became bad enough the No. 22 car spun out and forced a caution.
Logano, who last fall's Martinsville race, deserves credit for not losing total control of the car. His crew was able to address the issue on pit road, allowing him to return to the race. An eighth-place finish will be disappointing, but it could've been much worse.
Logano and Hamlin exchanged words on pit road once the race was over. Logano gave an overly exuberant pat to Hamlin's shoulder, which sparked a brief scuffle.
Both drivers offered their side:
The stakes are obviously high in each of the remaining races, which means the eight playoff drivers feel an added level of pressure. Logano's anger was understandable, but the reigning series champion remains on solid footing for the championship round, per NASCAR.com.
2019 NASCAR Playoff Standings
1. Martin Truex Jr.
2. Denny Hamlin (plus-24)
3. Kyle Busch (plus-17)
4. Joey Logano (plus-14)
5. Kevin Harvick (minus-14)
6. Ryan Blaney (minus-15)
7. Kyle Larson (minus-24)
8. Chase Elliott (minus-44)
Chase Elliott narrowly avoided elimination a week ago as a runner-up finish was enough to catapult him ahead of Keselowski.
The First Data 500 couldn't have gone much worse for the 23-year-old. His engine caught fire Saturday during practice, which was a bad omen. He told his crew early in the race he thought he had a broken axle. A trip to pit road didn't solve the problem, so the No. 9 car headed to the garage.
Although Elliott returned, he was 52 laps off the lead and completed only 445 laps en route to a 36th-place finish.
Anything short of a win over the next two weeks probably won't be enough for Elliott to climb into the top four.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series moves to the Texas Motor Speedway on Nov. 3 for the AAA Texas 500.