It's kind of fitting that Sunday’s NASCAR Xfinity 500 falls on Halloween. Seven drivers will discover the meaning of trick-or-treat, with three getting a ticket to the championship weekend dropped into their pumpkin bucket. The remaining four will ring the doorbell at Martinsville Speedway only to go home empty-handed.
Kyle Larson dominated the Round of 8, winning the opening two events. That has kept the rest of the field locked out from automatically advancing on points, although two – Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin – are on the cusp of moving on.
Should that happen, six points separate the next four drivers – Kyle Busch, Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr., and Brad Keselowski - for the final transfer spot. But sitting in eighth is Joey Logano and he could knock that foursome out with a win. The 31-year-old won at this track in 2018 and has four straight top 10s, including a P3 in last year’s Xfinity 500. He also won the pole for this year's spring race at the Martinsville.
NASCAR Xfinity 500 - What to watch for
Entering Sunday’s NASCAR Xfinity 500, Kyle Larson has won nine times in 2021, including three in a row. With victories at Texas and Kansas, he is the only one locked onto the Championship Four next week, leaving seven other hopefuls to battle it out for the three remaining spots at Martinsville Speedway.
Larson remains the clear favorite (+150) to dethrone teammate Chase Elliott as the reigning Cup Series champion (second choice at +350). But as hot as he is, the Virginia venue has not been one of his favorite tracks, with only two top-fives in 13 previous starts, and for this race, he is not the top pick (odds below). That honor goes to Martin Truex Jr., who has three checkered flags in his last four outings, the most recent in the spring.
Since joining Joe Gibbs Racing in 2019, Truex has had just one finish outside the top 10 - a P22 in last year’s fall event. Over that same span of five races, Larson had an average finish of P17 but finished fifth in the spring.
Meanwhile, Chase Elliott is the defending race champion who held off non-playoff driver Ryan Blaney. P3-4 went to Team Penske teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski, and both are still alive to run for the Cup title.
Of those still in the hunt, Logano is the only one in a must-win situation at the Xfinity 500. His blown engine resulted in P30 at Texas and P9 at Kansas have him behind the eight-ball. If he is to get in on points without taking the checkers, it would require a calamity involving many of the leaders.
Current Cup Series playoff standings
Kyle Larson – Hendrick Motorsports (Advanced on wins)
Chase Elliott – Hendrick Motorsports (+34)
Denny Hamlin – Joe Gibbs Racing (+32)
Kyle Busch – Joe Gibbs Racing (+1)
Ryan Blaney - Team Penske (-1)
Martin Truex Jr. – Joe Gibbs Racing (-3)
Brad Keselowski – Team Penske (-6)
Joey Logano – Team Penske (-26)
Four on the floor
Kyle Larson is in rarefied air entering the NASCAR Xfinity 500. When he won at Kansas last weekend, he became just the fourth different driver in Cup Series history to have won three in a row – twice. But the 29-year-old Californian could be the first to capture four straight since Jimmie Johnson turned the trick in 2007 and just the ninth in the modern era. If he wins Sunday's Xfinity 500, he will join a list of legends including David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Dale Earnhardt, Bill Elliott, Jeff Gordon and others with at least four.
Could there be more races on Sunday or even Monday?
The NASCAR Xfinity 500 on Sunday looks like a sure bet, weather-wise (see below), but Mother Nature could throw a wrench into the scheduling machinery if Saturday’s forecast holds. Two events are scheduled (Camping World Truck Series United Rentals 200 at 1:00 pm ET (Fox Sports 1) and the Xfinity Series Dead On Tools 250 at 6:00 pm ET (NBC Sports Network)), and rain is a distinct possibility.
Will that affect NASCAR’s decision to wait out any weather delays or push either or both races to Sunday (preferably) or Monday (TV ratings hell)? Stay tuned.
NASCAR Xfinity 500 – Where to Watch and Listen
• NBC will carry the Xfinity 500 live at 2:00 pm ET, preceded by Countdown to Green at 1:30 pm ET. The race will also be streamed on Peacock and the NBC Sports App.
• Radio coverage for the Xfinity 500 will be provided by the Motor Racing Network (MRN) and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90).
Sunday’s Weather (Via Weather .com)
38 drivers will take the green flag for the Xfinity 500 just after 2:00 pm ET. The forecast calls for sunshine and clouds mixed, high around 65°, and winds WNW at 10 to 15 mph.
NASCAR Xfinity 500 by the numbers
Race: Number 3 (Elimination) in Round of 8
What: 73rd Annual Xfinity 500
Where: Martinsville Speedway, Ridgeway, VA
When: Sunday, October 31 at 2:00 pm
Defending Race Champion: Chase Elliott (November 1, 2020)
Last Race Winner from the Pole: Jimmie Johnson (October 28, 2012)
Track Size: 0.526-mile paperclip-shaped oval
Race Length: 500 miles (263 miles)
Stages: 130 / 260 / 500
Tire Allotment: Nine sets of Goodyear Eagle Short Track Radials
NASCAR Xfinity 500 Odds (From VegasInsider)
+450 Martin Truex Jr.
+500 Kyle Larson
+600 Chase Elliott
+650 Denny Hamlin
+700 Ryan Blaney
+800 Kyle Busch
+850 Joey Logano
+900 Brad Keselowski
Martinsville Speedway Track History
First Race: Sept. 25, 1949 – NASCAR Strictly Stock (Red Byron, winner)
Track Owner: International Speedway Corporation
Here is the starting lineup for the NASCAR Xfinity 500
Note: There is no practice or qualifying. Starting lineup set by qualifying metrics.
Row 1: Kyle Larson (pole), Chase Elliott
Row 2: Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr.
Row 3: Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski
Row 4: Kyle Busch, Ryan Blaney
Row 5: Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch
Row 6: William Byron, Christopher Bell
Row 7: Alex Bowman, Austin Dillon
Row 8: Chris Buescher, Ross Chastain
Row 9: Bubba Wallace, Tyler Reddick
Row 10: Michael McDowell, Daniel Suarez
Row 11: Matt DiBenedetto, Chase Briscoe
Row 12: Aric Almirola, Cole Custer
Row 13: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ryan Preece
Row 14: Ryan Newman, Erik Jones
Row 15: Corey Lajoie, BJ McLeod
Row 16: Cody Ware, Anthony Alfredo
Row 17: Josh Bilicki, Joey Gase
Row 18: Justin Haley, Quin Houff
Row 19: Garrett Smithley, Timmy Hill
Q. Will Kyle Larson win his fourth in a row?