Of all the possible winners on Sunday night at Martinsville Speedway, Joey Logano represented the most fascinating option when it comes to forecasting the remainder of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship battle.

There are multiple ways of looking at this and none of them are more valid than the others.

On one hand, it places the so-called Big Three of Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. in control of their own destiny. And on the other, it places two of them, Harvick and Truex, increasingly at risk of not even qualifying for the Championship Race.

First, let’s review the playoff grid with just two races remaining before deciding the final four.

1. Joey Logano (Win, advanced)
2. Kyle Busch +46
3. Martin Truex +25
4. Kevin Harvick +25
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5. Kurt Busch -25
6. Chase Elliott -31
7. Clint Bowyer -42
8. Aric Almirola -50

As Kyle Busch said on Saturday morning, he doesn’t feel comfortable points racing during the final three-race round because there is a scenario where the second-place driver in points without a win after the race at Phoenix doesn’t advance.

With Logano winning, he leaves at least one of the Big Threesusceptible to getting bumped out of the provisional final four if some combination of Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott, Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola manage to win the races at Texas Motor Speedway and ISM Raceway over the next two weeks.

And more than likely, those guys now face a must-win scenario.

Perhaps, Elliott and Kurt Busch can make up 25 and 31 points, and certainly if they get some help over the next two weeks. But absolutely, Bowyer and Almirola are in must-win modes at 42 and 50 points back.

For each of these drivers, Logano was the worst possible outcome when it comes to who won the race.

If one of the Big Three had won, it keeps Logano, Elliott, Bowyer, Almirola and Kurt Busch in a tight points battle. Had Truex won that race, he advances to Homestead and Busch and Harvick hold sizeable leads to make it points.

In that FICTIONAL universe, it looks like this:

1. Martin Truex Jr. (Win, advanced)
2. Kyle Busch +46
3. Kevin Harvick +25
4. Joey Logano +15

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5. Kurt Busch -15
6. Chase Elliott -16
7. Clint Bowyer -32
8. Aric Almirola -40

So multiple takeaways here.

First, this is why Logano had to take the fight to Truex on the last corner and it’s why Truex arguably should have been more aggressive on his moves, especially if he was quicker and could have gotten away.

Second, the bottom four probably need to win the next two races and they know it.

"I needed a different outcome with the winner but I am really glad that Joey won and has his ticket to Homestead, it just makes our road tougher," Kurt Busch said.

"It is what it is," Almirola said. "Going into this round of 8, we felt confident that we needed to win no matter what."

"The way I look at it, if we can’t win these three races, we shouldn’t be thinking Homestead anyway," Elliott said.

So, the quick takeaways from Logano winning at Martinsville is that 1.) It means that the Big Three control their own destiny for the remainder of the playoffs and 2.) that everyone else will likely need to win their way into Homestead, which by the way would then start to kick members of that elite group out.

On one hand, the championship points battle just got a little anticlimactic, but it sets up the need for drivers to make desperate decisions to win the next two races.

Onward.

Source: Autoweek

October 28, 2018