Halloween is known for trick or treating and maybe even a scare or two.
After 500 laps at Martinsville Speedway, a few drivers may have walked away with a case of the Sunday Scaries. ￼
Denny Hamlin’s morning started off with failing inspection twice. That meant he had to start at the rear of the field. A former winner at Martinsville, the Virginia native found himself in a hole early.
It was a picture perfect day in Martinsville. No bad weather to be found for what felt like the first time in years for this race. As the race began, it stayed green until the competition caution flew at lap 62. That would allow teams to come in and get fresh tires and adjustments. The 1 car of Kurt Busch would come down once more before the restart to tighten the lug nuts. The race stayed green until lap 72, when Ryan Newman and Daniel Suárez made contact. This was the first of several incidents for Newman on the day, who wound up finishing 32nd.
The race stayed green until the end of the stage, but did not come without its share of excitement. The 3 of Austin Dillon and 12 of Ryan Blaney made contact on lap 92, leaving big damage to the rear of the 12. Blaney needed a good run if he wanted to move on to next week’s championship race. Chase Elliott would take the stage one victory.
After a long green flag run, the caution fell on lap 197, as Austin Dillon made contact with the wall and shred a tire. After a fairly tame stage, Chase Elliott would repeat as stage winner and officially lock himself into the Championship Four, joining teammate Kyle Larson. With that, there was only two spots up for grabs for next week.
The race restarted and stayed green until lap 310, when Josh Bilicki spun after contact with the 7. This wasn’t the end of the excitement for the 52. About 15 laps later, the 00 of Quinn Houff spun out. Not to be denied, Houff would retaliate on the 52. Unfortunately for Houff, he did so right in front of a cleanup truck. NASCAR parked the 00 for 5 laps.
15 laps later, the 6 and the 42 would get together. This would be the last caution until lap 378, when the 99 took a spin. The caution fell 40 laps later for a spin inolving Austin Dillon.
It was time for the money window to open, and the playoff drivers were ready to pounce. On lap 455, Brad Keselowski and Chase Elliott would make contact, sending the defending champ spinning. Chase would say nothing on the radio.
Just a few laps later, the 47 spun and collected the 23 of Bubba Wallace and the 9 car. All three would continue on. 15 laps later, the caution flew again for Ryan Preece who spun.
With just under 10 to go, the real fun began. Battling for the lead, Alex Bowman and Denny Hamlin would make contact, sending the 11 spinning. Hamlin was in position to clinch a spot for the championship race. He would battle his way back up. This set up a green white checkered run to the finish and Alex Bowman earned his fourth win of the season. Hamlin and teammate Martin Truex Jr would clinch the final two spots, as both Keselowski and Kyle Busch needed wins to clinch.
As Bowman began to celebrate, an irate Denny Hamlin looked to put an end to it. There were no words exchanged, just gestures.
NASCAR has longed for the game 7 moments, and Martinsville didn’t disappoint.
Featured photo from @Alex_Bowman on Twitter.