Texas takeaways: Key moves could lead Ryan Blaney to championship race
A key pit call and some daring driving at Texas could lead Ryan Blaney to a spot in the championship race for the first time in his NASCAR Cup career.Blaney entered Texas Motor Speedway holding the final transfer spot to next month’s title race by one point. He left the track with a 17-point cushion.
© Sean Gardner Getty Images Bubble battle: Breaking down the Ryan Blaney vs. Martin Truex Jr. featured matchup
Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. are on the outside looking in for advancing to the Championship 4 entering the Xfinity 500 (2 p.m. ET on NBC/NBC Sports App/Peacock, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) — the final race of the Round of 8 in the NASCAR Playoffs. Blaney sits one point out from advancing, while Truex is three points out on the provisional elimination line, so a strong points day could aid their effort to make the Championship 4.
Blaney has been one of the stronger performers in recent Martinsville races with four top fives in his last five starts there. In the lone finish outside the top five in that stretch, he won both stages and led 157 laps. After years of not closing the deal on short tracks, Truex has won three of the last four Martinsville races and has a run of six top-five finishes in his last eight starts there.
Hope remains strong for those below cutline heading to Martinsville
After numerous struggles Sunday at Kansas, those below the cutline in the Cup playoffs carry hope with them into the Oct. 31 race at Martinsville.Such was the feeling for those who left Kansas Speedway below the cutline after Sunday’s playoff race.
RELATED: Playoff standings | Odds for Sunday‘s Martinsville race | NASCAR BetCenter
How does each driver stack up for a head-to-head matchup in Sunday‘s race? We‘re breaking down the key stats ahead of the elimination race.
*For the purposes of this chart, 2021 short-track races are defined as the two Richmond races, the Martinsville spring race and the Bristol playoff race on the traditional concrete surface.
|Ryan Blaney||Category||Martin Truex Jr.|
|0||2021 short-track wins||2|
|9.0||2021 short-track average finish||3.5|
|154||2021 short-track points scored||189|
|13.5||2021 NASCAR Playoffs average finish||11.1|
|-1 to elimination line (5th in standings)||2021 NASCAR Playoffs standings spot||-3 to elimination line (6th in standings)|
|11th (won both stages)||2021 Martinsville spring result||1st|
|10.7 (in 11 starts)||Martinsville average finish (all time)||16.5 (in 31 starts)|
|4.8||Martinsville average finish (since 2019)||6.6|
|Blaney has five top-five finishes in his last seven Martinsville races — tied with Truex and Keselowski for the most in that stretch.||Notable stat to know||If you remove Truex’s 22nd-place finish last fall at Martinsville, he has a 4.8 average finish at the track since 2016.|
The 2021 short-track stats favor Truex by a bit. That should come as no surprise as all four of Truex’s 2021 wins have come at tracks with the 750-horsepower package (Phoenix, Martinsville, Darlington and Richmond-2) while Blaney has won on a superspeedway (Daytona-2) and two tracks that utilized the 550-horsepower package (Atlanta and Michigan). The recent Martinsville stats, though, paint a tight picture between Truex and Blaney despite MTJ’s three wins in the last four races there. It’s not hard to imagine a scenario where these guys are running 1-2 late in the race with a playoff spot firmly on the line given their recent runs there. That would be a fun way for this matchup to play out on Sunday.
Check back on Friday as The Action Network‘s PJ Walsh (@PJWalsh24) breaks down the same matchup and provides his betting insight for who and how to bet this matchup.
Breaking down the Championship 4 Cup drivers .
A look at how Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. stack up entering Sunday's Cup title finale at Phoenix (3 p.m. ET; NBC, Peacock).Chase Elliott looks to successfully defend his NASCAR Cup Series championship (although he himself wouldn’t term it that way).