By John Goolsby, Prep Sports Editor
MARTINSVILLE – Ryan Blaney claimed one of two available playoff spots with his win at Martinsville today.
William Byron joined Blaney with a thirteen-place finish that put him eight points ahead of Denny Hamlin.
Six drivers came into the Xfinity 500 at Martinsville hoping to join Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell in the Championship 4 in Phoenix on November 5.
Byron and Blaney looked to have the best shot at joining the pair, while Tyler Reddick, Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., and Chris Buescher were on the outside of the points looking in.
Lap 105 saw Austin Dillon make contact with Alex Bowman, who made contact with Harrison Burton.
Corey LaJoie then collected Bowman.
Racing resumed on lap 111, and Hamlin picked up the Stage 1 win while Blaney finished second.
Truex was third, Byron twelfth, Buescher eighteenth and Reddick nineteenth.
At the restart for Stage 2, Hamlin held off Blaney, but the driver of the #12 Penske Ford continued to track Hamlin and took the lead on lap 195.
The second caution of the day came when Ryan Newman spun coming out of turn four.
Hamlin regained the lead off pit road, followed by Truex, Jr., and Blaney. However, Truex, Jr., was penalized for speeding.
Blaney took the lead with a pass around Hamlin with 30 laps to go in Stage 2 and held on for the stage win over Hamlin.
On the restart, Blaney briefly led, but Hamlin regained the lead after the two battled door-to-door for numerous laps.
Blaney and Hamlin remained on the track while Byron and Truex, Jr. elected to pit.
Truex, Jr.’s day went from bad to worse when his team had trouble changing tires on the left side of the car.
On the restart, Blaney and Hamlin came together, with Blaney getting loose and almost contacting the wall.
The third caution of the day came when Joey Logano hit Ty Gibbs in between turns three and four. Daniel Suarez was also caught up in the incident.
Blaney took the lead on the restart at lap 284 and led until the fourth caution. The caution was for another Ty Gibbs spin.
With Blaney leading, Bubba Wallace got past Hamlin for second on the restart with 190 laps to go.
While Blaney continued to lead, Wallace gave the position back to Hamlin.
A Michael McDowell spin brought out the fifth caution of the race.
The race then saw the Pace Car stop on track and require a tow.
The race resumed with 168 laps, with Hamlin and Blaney in the eleventh and twelfth positions. The two ran nose to tail for the better part of 80 laps before Hamlin passed Blaney.
Blaney passed Hamlin back four laps later and began to pull away.
Eric Amirola passed Chase Elliott for the lead with 89 laps to go.
Blaney passed Amirola for the race lead with 23 laps remaining.
With 20 laps to go, with Blaney in the lead and Hamlin running third, Byron, running in the 15th position, held a six-point over Hamlin in the battle for the fourth playoff spot.
Blaney held on and pulled out a .859 second win over Amirola.
“It’s awesome; I grew up in High Point, not too far from here,” Blaney said. “It’s really cool.”
“I’ve been wanting to win here for a long time, been super close for many years,” he said. “It’s awesome to close it out.”
Hamlin finished third but lost out to Byron by eight points for the final playoff spot.
Byron finished 13th.
The NASCAR championship takes place in Phoenix next Sunday.