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NASCAR PREVIEW: How will Chase Elliott match up against Martinsville Speedway
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Chase Elliott holding up the checkered flag after his victory at Charlotte Roval on Oct. 11. Image by Jared C. Tilton of Getty Images for nascarmedia.com - photo by File photo

Martinsville Speedway is the last race of the Round of Eight in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, making this race Dawsonville native Chase Elliott’s last chance to qualify for the cup series championship.

Elliott’s heated history at Martinsville is best remembered in his 2017 appearance at the track, when he narrowly missed his shot at cup series victory. During that appearance Elliott was on track for his first cup series victory ever when fellow driver Denny Hamlin bumped into the back of his car. The collision sent Elliott into the wall late in the race after leading for 123 laps. 

"My mom always said if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all,"  Elliott said after the 2017 race in regard to Hamlin. "He's not worth my time, so we'll move onto Texas. It was just unnecessary and uncalled for. I can't control his decisions and whatever the hell that was."

In 2019, Elliott changed his engine mid-race, due to a broken axle, relinquishing a top-five finish for 36th place. 

“We can’t break parts,” Elliott’s crew chief  Alan Gustafson said following the 2019 race. “You can’t win these races if you don’t finish them. Certainly can’t gain any points if you don’t finish them. Yeah, we gotta finish races. We can’t continue to do this. This is not acceptable and we’re not going to get very far if we don’t finish, so that’s a lot to clean up in my opinion. Yeah, not good.”

Aside from two dramatic experiences at Martinsville, Elliott finishes races consistently in the top 10 at the course. If the two races are taken out of consideration, Elliott has finished well his last five races at the track, with three of those finishes in the top 5. Elliott finished fifth in a race earlier this year at Martinsville, finishing in the top 10 in both stages. 

Fellow playoff driver Martin Truex Jr.’s great success at Martinsville should come with concern for Elliott and his fans. But if Elliott avoids catastrophe and keeps up his streak of top 10 finishes at Martinsville, he should qualify for his first ever NASCAR Cup Series Championship.