The first race in the Round of 8 is in the books and it was a race to remember. The Goody’s Fast Relief 500 was well named, as many drivers probably needed the product at the conclusion of the race. The eight playoff drivers still in contention showed why they are still in the hunt for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship, as they all raced inside the top 10 for most of the day.
Brad Keselowski won both Stage 1 and Stage 2, picking up 20 very valuable points. The bonus points will not be added on after the Round of 8. There were nine cautions for incidents on the track but none of the championship contenders were involved until the field was coming to the white flag.
Chase Elliott was in the lead, racing for his first victory in Cup Series racing and the automatic entry into the championship race in Homestead. Denny Hamlin was riding Elliott’s bumper when Hamlin sent Elliott into the wall. This incident sent the race into overtime where Kyle Busch took the lead coming out of turn 4, heading for the white flag. Busch held on for his 43rd victory of his NASCAR Cup Series career, and his fifth victory this season. The victory guarantees Kyle Busch will be one of the four drivers eligible to win the 2017 championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 19.
Everyone is buzzing about the Hamlin/ Elliott incident with most of the Twitter and media coverage being anti Hamlin. Drivers moved other drivers all day long at Martinsville to gain positions during the race, but they didn’t wreck them. Hamlin wrecked Elliott and the fans in the stands let him know about it.
Hamlin’s roots are in Virginia and most fans cheered him all race long, but those cheers turned to boos throughout his entire post-race interview. On the other hand, Elliott was cheered profusely for his handling of the situation. On the cool down lap after the race, Elliott door-slammed Hamlin into the wall when both drivers’ window nets were down. That has been a big no-no for years in the sport, but NASCAR did not call anyone to the hauler after the race.
Going into the final two Round of 8 races, Busch has an automatic entry into the Round of 4. Martin Truex Jr. is looking good 67 points above the cutoff line. Keselowski is 29 points to the good, but then it gets tight for Harvick (+3), Johnson (-3), Blaney (-6), and Hamlin (-8). Elliott’s poor luck finds him 27 points below the cutoff and basically needs a win or some very good fortune happen at Texas or Phoenix.