CONCORD, N.C. – This Sunday, the NASCAR Cup Series returns to Martinsville Speedway for the second time in 2022. The event will serve as the final race in the Round of 8 and will solidify the four drivers still in contention to win the championship at Phoenix Raceway on Nov. 6.
Chase Elliott (+11) and William Byron (+5) each enter the southern Virginia short-track above the cutline. Both drivers showed speed at Martinsville in the spring, with Elliott winning stages one and two while Byron led 212 circuits on his way to taking the checkered flag.
While no longer in the driver’s championship, Kyle Larson’s victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway has locked the No. 5 team into the owner’s Championship 4. The group will go for back-to-back championships in this category in Phoenix.
As for the track itself, Martinsville has several unique characteristics that will not be seen at any other track on the schedule. The short-track has played host to Cup Series action since NASCAR was founded in 1948, making Martinsville the last original venue on the tour's calendar. The facility also features asphalt straightaways but a concrete surface in the turns. With a distance of .526 miles in length and 12 degrees of banking in the corners, Martinsville serves as a unique and historic venue to host the final race in the Round of 8.
In March’s visit to southern Virginia, Byron captured his first career short-track victory in dominating fashion. It was his second win of the 2022 campaign. Coming into Martinsville with a five-point advantage over the cutline, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native will look to repeat his performance from earlier this year and send the No. 24 team to the Championship 4 in Phoenix.
Elliott also performed well at the first Martinsville race, leading the field for 185 laps on the night. While he finished the race in the 10th position, the two stage victories earned Elliott 47 points, which was the second highest of any driver in the race.
Despite finishing 15th in the last Martinsville race, Bowman took victory here one year ago. The triumph was his fourth win of 2021. However, Bowman will not race this weekend as he recovers from a concussion suffered following an accident in the Sept. 25 event at Texas Motor Speedway. Noah Gragson continues to fill in for Bowman and will drive the No. 48 Ally Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 this weekend.
Kyle Larson finished 19th in the Cup Series’ last trip to Martinsville. The No. 5 HendrickCars.com team will look to build momentum as they head to Phoenix with a chance to win back-to-back owners championships.
As an organization, Hendrick Motorsports’ history can be traced back to Martinsville as a victory there in 1984 with Geoff Bodine kept the team alive. At the time, “All-Star Racing”, as it was formerly known, was struggling to keep up with the competition and seriously considered closing its doors. The win allowed for Rick Hendrick’s team to continue operations and eventually grow into the scale it currently resides at.
Hendrick Motorsports has claimed victory 27 times at Martinsville with Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson leading the organization at nine triumphs each while Darrell Waltrip contributed four wins to the total. Geoff Bodine, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Elliott, Bowman, and Byron, each account for a single victory towards the total.
Here is what you need to know to catch this weekend’s action.
WHAT TIME IS PRACTICE AND QUALIFYING?
Group practice will begin at 12:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, Oct. 29, and will be broadcast on USA Network as well as the NBC Sports App. Group qualifying will follow practice and begin at 12:45 p.m. ET and can also be found on USA Network and the NBC Sports App.
Larson, Elliott, and Byron will be in Group A while Gragson will be in Group B.
WHAT TIME IS THE RACE?
The 500-lap Cup Series main event is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, Oct. 30, and will be broadcast on NBC.
CAN I LISTEN ON THE RADIO?
The race will be on MRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90).
CAN I STREAM ONLINE?
FIVE FAST FACTS HEADING INTO MARTINSVILLE Data provided by Racing Insights
1: Finishing position of Gragson at last year’s NASCAR Xfinity Series playoff race at Martinsville. The Las Vegas, Nevada, native will make his fifth Cup Series start with Hendrick Motorsports this Sunday.
7: Since the start of 2018, Larson has won seven playoff races, which is tied for the most in the Cup Series.
8: Top-two finishes from Elliott this season. The Dawsonville, Georgia, native leads the field in this category.
98.5: Percentage of the laps that Hendrick Motorsports led at Martinsville in the Cup Series’ last visit to the 0.526-mile track.
173: Points earned by Byron on short-tracks this season. The 24-year-old driver has scored 16 more points than the second-place driver in this category.