Martin Truex Jr. (19) rides the high line ahead of Tyler Reddick at Homestead-Miami Speedway. (Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Playoff Update: One More Chance 

With only one race left in the Round of 8 of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, two drivers have secured a place in the Championship 4 at Phoenix Raceway.

Kyle Larson won at Las Vegas Motor Speedway two weeks ago as he’ll compete for a second title in three years.

Then on Sunday, Christopher Bell, who ran runner-up to Larson at Las Vegas, rallied late in the race at Homestead-Miami Speedway and scored the victory. It is Bell’s second consecutive Championship 4 berth.

Now, the six remaining playoff drivers will fight for two spots in the title round. Here are the latest playoff standings heading into this weekend’s race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.

Safe, But Not Secure

3. William Byron (+30)

William Byron celebrates his win at Texas Motor Speedway. (HHP/Jacy Norgaard)

It was another stout performance for William Byron and the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team at Homestead. Byron finished fourth to notch his ninth top-10 finish in the last 10 races. 

Now with a 30-point cushion heading to Martinsville, Byron is in solid position to advance.

Byron has a victory (2022) and four top-seven finishes in his last five appearances at the .526-mile short track.

4. Ryan Blaney (+10)

Entering Homestead, Ryan Blaney faced a 17-point hole. Though a Stage Two win and runner-up finish, along with other playoff rivals facing problems allowed Blaney to vault into the top four. 

A 10-point advantage isn’t much, but it’s better to be ahead than playing catch up at an unforgiving track like Martinsville where track position is key.

Still, should a driver ranking below Blaney in the playoff standings wins at Martinsville, the Team Penske driver would likely be eliminated with Byron getting the final spot on points.

The Team Penske driver has been hot as of late with three top-six finishes in his last four starts. 

Martinsville has been a particularly strong track for Blaney as he’s recorded seven top-five finishes and nine top 10s in his last 12 starts there. 

Outside Looking In

5. Tyler Reddick (-10)

A stout third-place finish reduced Tyler Reddick’s deficit to the cutline from 16 markers to 10. The 23XI Racing driver’s results have been strong of late with his last three finishes coming inside the top eight.

Though it’ll be tough sledding for the 23XI Racing driver as he’s only secured one top 10 (eighth, Spring 2021) in his seven previous Martinsville starts.

6. Martin Truex Jr. (-17)

Martin Truex Jr. looks on at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. (HHP/Chris Owens)

A pole position and 11 stage points throughout Sunday’s 4Ever 400 presented by Mobil 1 were major positives from Martin Truex Jr.’s day at Homestead.

Though his strong run went up in smoke in the latter stages of the race as he brought his No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota to the garage due to engine troubles. Truex finished 29th. 

With a 17-point hole to dig out of, Truex will be in near ‘throwing everything but the kitchen sink’ territory. 

The 2017 Cup Series champion has been strong at Martinsville in the past, however, with three victories and two pole positions. 

7. Denny Hamlin (-17)

Much like his teammate Truex, Denny Hamlin was well on his way to a strong result at Homestead. Hamlin tallied 12 stage points and ran within the top five toward the end of the race.

Hamlin slapped the turn-one wall hard in the closing laps, promptly ending his day in 30th place. 

A few weeks removed from stating ‘it’s our year,’ after winning at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway in September, Hamlin is on the brink of elimination.

He’ll need major help or a win to secure a Championship 4 spot. The Virginia native, however, has encountered plenty of success at Martinsville.

In 35 starts, Hamlin owns five career wins, four poles and an average finish of 10.3 at “The Paperclip.”

8. Chris Buescher (-43)

What once looked to be the Cinderella story of the NASCAR Playoffs, RFK Racing’s Chris Buescher is in a tough predicament entering Martinsville.

Buescher, a three-time winner this season, entered the Round of 8 only three points below the cutline. Since then, an 11th at Las Vegas and 21st at Homestead pins the No. 17 Ford driver 43 points behind.

He’ll need a victory to ensure his place in the championship race at Phoenix. 

In 16 starts at Martinsville, Buescher only has one top-10 finish.