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Chase Elliott wins at Martinsville and will race Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin for the NASCAR title

Nick Bromberg
·4-min read

Kevin Harvick won’t have a shot at his second Cup Series title in 2020.

Chase Elliott won Sunday’s race at Martinsville to clinch a spot in the championship race at Phoenix on Nov. 8. Elliott will race Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin for the 2020 title as Harvick, the series’ winningest driver, missed out.

Harvick tried a Hail Mary move on the final lap and spun Kyle Busch to make a pass in the final corner. But he ended up crashing himself, as well. Harvick was trying to pass Busch for ninth and ended up finishing 17th after he crashed himself.

“Tried to run into the door of [Busch] there as a last-ditch effort there,” Harvick said.

It’s the first time Harvick has failed to advance to the final race since 2016. He won’t finish any higher than fifth in 2020 despite winning a series-high nine races.

MARTINSVILLE, VIRGINIA - NOVEMBER 01: Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning  the NASCAR Cup Series Xfinity 500 at Martinsville Speedway on November 01, 2020 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Chase Elliott will race for his first title. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Elliott entered Sunday’s race essentially needing a win to advance as he was 25 points behind Keselowski for the final spot in the title race. But he made it look easy after passing Martin Truex Jr. with 44 laps to go.

Elliott won by over 6.5 seconds as Truex was forced to pit because of a vibration. Truex, Alex Bowman and Kurt Busch were eliminated from playoff contention along with Harvick.

Quick thinking by Elliott’s pit crew

The win was preserved by jackman T.J. Semke. He went over the wall too soon as Elliott hit pit road with less than 90 laps to go.

Elliott was penalized by NASCAR for having too many crew members over the wall before his pit stop. But Semke realized his mistake and went back and Mario-bounced off the pit wall before Elliott’s car came to a stop in his stall.

Semke’s move meant that, per NASCAR rules, he reestablished himself as outside of Elliott’s pit stall. NASCAR rescinded the penalty and let Elliott keep his position on the track.

Had the penalty stood, Elliott would have had to restart at the back of the field. That penalty would have undoubtedly prevented him from winning the race and advancing to the championship.

Elliott’s first shot at a title

Elliott had been eliminated from the playoffs in the third round in each of the past three seasons. He’ll now have a chance to race for his first championship thanks to the victory.

His win also means that Hendrick Motorsports has its first car in the final four since Jimmie Johnson raced for the 2016 title. Johnson won his seventh and final championship that season.

Hendrick has been locked out of the title chase in each of the past three seasons as teams like Joe Gibbs Racing, Team Penske and Stewart-Haas Racing have had faster cars over the course of the season. But now that Elliott is in the final four, the title chase will include one JGR car (Hamlin), one Hendrick car (Elliott) and two Team Penske cars (Keselowski and Logano).

MARTINSVILLE, VIRGINIA - NOVEMBER 01: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Mobil 1 Ford, drives with sparks after an on-track incident on the last lap of the NASCAR Cup Series Xfinity 500 at Martinsville Speedway on November 01, 2020 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick won't race for his second title in 2020. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Who’s the favorite?

It’s an open title fight now that Harvick is out of the running. Hamlin has the most wins among the four drivers racing for the championship and won at Phoenix last fall. Logano won at Phoenix in the spring and Keselowski has been one of the fastest drivers in the Cup Series on short tracks. Elliott, meanwhile, has won on two road courses, an intermediate track and a short track this season.

Had Harvick made the final four he would have been the favorite. But since he’s not racing for the title you can make a convincing case for any of the four remaining drivers.

Race results

1. Chase Elliott

2. Ryan Blaney

3. Joey Logano

4. Brad Keselowski

5. Kurt Busch

6. Alex Bowman

7. Aric Almirola

8. Clint Bowyer

9. Kyle Busch

10. Matt DiBenedetto

11. Denny Hamlin

12. Erik Jones

13. Cole Custer

14. Matt Kenseth

15. Christopher Bell

16. Ty Dillon

17. Kevin Harvick

18. Ryan Newman

19. Ryan Preece

20. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

21. Bubba Wallace

22. Martin Truex JR.

23. Austin Dillon

24. Tyler Reddick

25. Corey Lajoie

26. John Hunter Nemechek

27. Daniel Suarez

28. Michael McDowell

29. Timmy Hill

30. Jimmie Johnson

31. JJ Yeley

32. Josh Bilicki

33. Quin Houff

34. Joey Gase

35. William Byron

36. James Davison

37. Brennan Poole

38. Chris Buescher

39. Garrett Smithley

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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