With non-Playoff contender Spencer Boyd taking the win in the opening race of the Round of 6, that means all four spots in the championship battle at Homestead-Miami Speedway are still up for grabs with Martinsville and ISM Raceway looming. That also means that at least two spots to the Championship 4 will be among wildcard drivers.
Defending champion Brett Moffitt sits in the best position to advance – holding a 45-point advantage over fifth-place Tyler Ankrum, one spot outside the Championship 4 cutoff.
After that, however, the cushion diminishes significantly – making each of the next two races especially important.
Stewart Friesen is in second, 22 points ahead of Ankrum, while Austin Hill is third – 12 points ahead of the cutoff. And just one point separates Matt Crafton in the fourth and final championship-contending slot from Ankrum.
And despite a late-race crash from the lead at Talladega, Ross Chastain is only two points behind Crafton.
This weekend will be huge for these drivers since the gaps are so minimal.
Moffitt, has competed four times at Martinsville, never finishing worse than sixth – which he did in his first trip to the track in the spring of 2017. Since then he put up finishes of third and second last year and was third again earlier this season on the half-mile circuit. Moffitt also competed in two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races at Martinsville during his Sunoco Rookie of the Year season in that series. He can really put himself in a great position even if he doesn’t win on Saturday.
Crafton, also looks good as he’s the lone remaining Playoff contender who has recorded a win at Martinsville – in fact, he has two – in the spring of 2014 en route to his second series championship and then in the fall of 2015. In 35 starts at Martinsville, Crafton has recorded nine top-five and 20 top-10 results, as well as an impressive average finish of 10.2. He’s suffered only two DNFs there, both a result of mechanical issues.
Chastain, has made seven starts at Martinsville, posting a 12.7 average finish at the track. His best finish, and his lone top-five result, came earlier this year when he crossed the line fourth. He also had three top 10s, two of them coming in the most recent two races. Chastain has also competed in three Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races at Martinsville. This could be the weekend he moves back onto the good side of the playoff bubble.
Friesen, an ace on the dirt short tracks, has raced five times at Martinsville, putting up mixed results. He’s had two finishes of 20th or worse alongside a pair of top 10s (sixth in the fall of 2017 and fifth earlier this season). Friesen started from the pole in the spring race this year and could help his cause by a good finish himself.
For Hill, in eight starts at “The Paperclip,” Hill has managed just two top-10 finishes – 10th in the fall of 2016 and ninth in the spring race last year. He has posted an average finish of 16.2 at Martinsville. He could be in a bit of trouble.
Ankrum, like Hill, could also be in trouble. The rookie has the smallest sample size at Martinsville out of the Playoff drivers, having competed in just two races at the short track. He finished 18th last fall and was 19th earlier this season. He calls this his worst track on the schedule.