Who will join Christopher Bell and Kyle Larson in the final four at Phoenix?
There are two spots in NASCAR's championship race up for grabs in the final race of the third round of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs at Martinsville. Bell and Larson are locked in because of their wins in the first two races of the round and a win by any of the other six playoff drivers means another automatic berth into the final.
William Byron is likely the only driver who doesn't have to worry about another playoff driver winning the race. Byron enters as the top driver in the points standings behind Bell and Larson thanks to finishes of seventh and fourth over the first two races of the third round.
Everyone else needs to be thinking about a win. Here's how we'd handicap the final four chances of everyone not-named Larson or Bell.
1. William Byron, 4,126 points (+700 to win race at BetMGM)
Byron isn’t totally safe entering the final race of the third round, but he should be feeling very good about his chances. Solid finishes in the first two stages will give Byron a good cushion in case something goes wrong in the second half of the race. The worst-case scenario for Byron is a crash or equipment failure in the first stage. He won the spring race at Martinsville in 2022 and has finished fifth and seventh in the last two fall races at the track.
Odds of making the final four: 80%
2. Ryan Blaney, 4,106 points (+1100)
Blaney isn’t one of the favorites to win the race and his Martinsville track record is being overlooked. He hasn’t finished lower than 11th in any Martinsville race since 2018. That’s a stretch of nine races that includes six top-five finishes. If Blaney makes that streak 10 races and scores points over the first two stages, it’s going to likely take a win by someone else below him on this list to knock him out of a place in the title race.
Odds of making the final four: 50%
3. Denny Hamlin, 4,089 points (+250)
Hamlin is 17 points back of Blaney but is our No. 3 favorite to take one of the two spots because of his past Martinsville success. He’s the clear favorite to win Sunday at BetMGM and is the only active driver with more than three career wins at the track. A win on Sunday would be Hamlin’s sixth in 36 starts and his average finish (10.3) is only second to Blaney — a driver who has made 20 fewer Martinsville starts.
Odds of making the final four: 30%
4. Martin Truex Jr., 4,089 points (+900)
What a bizarre postseason it’s been for Truex. He won the regular season title and yet has one top-10 finish through the first eight playoff races and his second-best finish is a 17th-place run at Texas. Truex has three Martinsville wins but they all came in a four-race stretch spanning 2019-21. He’s finished 22nd, 20th and third in the three Martinsville races with the current Cup Series car. He could lead 350 laps on the way to a win or he could finish 15th.
Odds of making the final four: 20%
5. Tyler Reddick, 4,096 points (+1200)
Reddick has a seven-point cushion on both Truex and Hamlin but finds himself behind both of them in our rankings because of his Martinsville history. Reddick’s only top-10 finish at the track came in 2021 and he’s finished 18th, 18th, 35th and 22nd in his last four races at the track. It’s going to be an uphill battle to have a shot at the title.
Odds of making the final four: 15%
6. Chris Buescher, 4,063 points (+2000)
Buescher’s point total makes it clear. He has to win on Sunday to have a chance. Our odds line up with his odds at BetMGM. He has just one top-10 finish at Martinsville and was 14th earlier this season. Never say never, but it’ll be a surprise if Buescher is in victory lane on Sunday night.
Odds of making the final four: 5%