NASCAR at Martinsville 2019 Results: Martin Truex Jr. Wins; William Byron 2nd

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistOctober 27, 2019

MARTINSVILLE, VIRGINIA - OCTOBER 27: Martin Truex Jr, driver of the #19 Auto Owners Insurance Toyota, races during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 27, 2019 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

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.


CHECKERED FLAG: @MartinTruex_Jr holds on and clinches a spot in the #Championship4 with a win at @MartinsvilleSwy! Results: https://t.co/8DdEcxdgkw https://t.co/4oO3mnGVPL

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:

Jeff Gluck @jeff_gluck

Here’s the thing: What if Byron tries to move Truex and accidentally wrecks him? Then you just wrecked a playoff contender. Does that change the perception of his move? I’d think so.

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.

Nick Bromberg @NickBromberg

I’m not rooting against Martin Truex Jr. but it would be cool for the sake of entertainment if someone actually passed him for the lead

Jenna Fryer @JennaFryer

There have been two lead changes (one on track) as clean air and Martin Truex Jr. have combined to lead 10 million laps.


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.


The bad news: @JoeyLogano spun around. The good: He somehow kept the No. 22 car off the wall. #NASCARPlayoffs https://t.co/kYWETKrQtO

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.


Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin battled hard on the track. Then, they got into each other on pit road. #NASCARPlayoffs https://t.co/V8cl2QSwtI

Both drivers offered their side:


Rate @DennyHamlin's impression of Joey Logano. #NASCARPlayoffs https://t.co/jo5t4KZBSp


Two sides to every story. Hear from Joey Logano after his post-race altercation with Denny Hamlin. #NASCARPlayoffs https://t.co/7TVEitWNFf

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.


Major problems for Chase Elliott! He believes he has a broken axle. Take a look at the pit stop on the right rear. #NASCARPlayoffs https://t.co/h5VXLkrEBl

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.