Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports
Joey Logano leads NASCAR’s Chase into Martinsville Sunday.
Eight drivers remain in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ Chase going into Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway.
In a shocking turn of events, the current Chase format showcased some serious flaws last week in Talladega when both Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski kissed the Chase goodbye after car malfunctions.
Joey Logano was another notable name on the bubble with those two, but he seized the checkered flag to advance to the most diverse round of the Chase. This round features another three races, halves the Chase itself and features two ovals and a speedway.
Here’s a look at everything to know about Sunday’s event.
Where: Martinsville Speedway
When: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NBC Sports
Sprint Cup Standings
|9||Martin Truex Jr.||2191||4|
NASCAR at Martinsville Lineup
|78||Martin Truex Jr|
|17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr|
Drivers to Watch
Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski
Yes, both of these guys got the boot from the Chase last week. Yes, they are still very much worthy of the spotlight.
Most drivers who exit the Chase don’t deserve a mention as far as contention goes. But it’s different with Truex and Keselowski—both guys sporting four wins on the season, something only two other drivers did (Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch).
Seemingly booted unfairly, two of the season’s hottest drivers won’t do anything short of gunning to play the spoiler for the rest of the Chase.
Keselowski‘s side of it is especially harrowing; he led 90 laps before his engine went up in flames, literally, as NASCAR captured:
That just happened.@keselowski’s engine expires and #TheChase gets another shakeup! pic.twitter.com/7E9LK7ip5z
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) October 23, 2016
Rest assured, neither man will simply go away because the shot at a title has concluded.
With four checkered flags apiece under their belts, Truex and Keselowski remain favorites at every race the rest of the way, status in the Chase mattering nil. If the two want to make a statement about the current format, expect both to put on a show Sunday.
Butch Dill/Associated Press
Joey Logano looks to keep the momentum going Sunday.
Guaranteed little last week going into Talladega, one of the worst places to need a win or risk elimination, Logano took advantage of Keselowski‘s misfortune and got his second win of the season and first since June.
It’s almost as if Logano knew what every fan does—he’s heading into Martinsville this weekend, site of the infamous altercation with Matt Kenseth one year ago.
There, Kenseth intentionally wrecked Logano and ruined his title hopes in a retaliatory measure for past slights. Logano, though, isn’t thinking much about the topic going into Sunday, or at least that’s what he told USA Today‘s Jeff Gluck.
“You’re never going to erase it from your mind—I’m not going to lie to you and say that. I will say I’m not going to focus on it,” Logano said. That’s a distraction from what my main goal is, which is to win. If I can use it to motivate me, I’m going to use that to help me win. But that’s going to be it.”
Whether he’s thinking about last year or not, Logano now has some serious momentum after a win last week going into a race he led for 207 laps a year ago.
Armed with the understanding a win at Martinsville could mean a championship triumph, expect Logano to put on one of his best races of the year.
Speaking of last year, a guy by the name of Jeff Gordon seized a checkered flag in Martinsville after leading 35 laps and assured his spot in the final round of the Chase.
Gordon has a chance to do it again Sunday.
Racing in place of Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 car, Gordon returns to one of his best—and favorite—tracks:
“You kind of like to leave a place w/ a win & I definitely don’t want to mess that up, but it’s also…” -> https://t.co/XIXckGIPee. #TeamJG pic.twitter.com/V7KPvqN6hI
— Jeff Gordon (@JeffGordonWeb) October 28, 2016
One of the kings of Sunday’s half-mile oval, Gordon has six top-10 finishes over the past seven races at Martinsville. Another, if not a checkered flag outright, would stand as the most shocking thing in the world.
Gordon has looked iffy in limited appearances this year, but it’s hard to shake the thought he could put on a dominant show at one of his best locales. If he runs the event as he usually does, he could have back-to-back career moments at Martinsville.
Stats and info courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.
Follow Chris Roling (@Chris_Roling) on Twitter.