The 2023 fall Martinsville race report features an astoundingly high fraction of green-flag passes, a new tire that worked for racing, but not for the pace car and some costly pit-road snafus. Ryan Blaney, with perhaps the strongest car he’s had all season, prevailed and earned his way into the Championship 4, along with William Byron. They join Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell in the race for the season’s big prize this weekend at Phoenix.
The caution/lead-o-gram provides the rhythm of the race as it shifted from driver to driver.
Seven cautions for 61 laps gives us a race with 12.2% cautions. This is the most cautions and most caution laps in the Next Gen era at Martinsville. The large number of caution laps is due in part to the pace car picking up so much rubber that it wrapped around the car’s wiring and tore it out.
The pace car driver went to a backup and the race proceeded.
There were five unplanned cautions, all accidents, and two planned cautions.
Lead Change Report
There were 12 lead changes among six drivers. A massive eight of these — 2/3 — were green-flag passes. Here’s the full breakdown:
- 8 green-flag passes
- 2 leads taken on pit road during yellow-flag pit stops
- 1 lead inherited when leaders pit under yellow
- 1 lead taken during a restart.
Here’s how I categorized the lead changes.
Corey LaJoie was the only driver to take the lead on a restart. Ryan Blaney defended his lead on three restarts. Denny Hamlin did the same.
Chase Elliott and his team gambled on having enough fuel to make it to the end of the race and lost that bet. That relegated him to a 17th-place finish, but the gamble made sense given the need to win to make the owner’s championship.
Here’s a graph showing how many drivers finished on the lead lap. There were a lot of wavearounds, but in the end, only 12 drivers finished all 500 laps. Three drivers failed to finish the race: two because of accidents and one because of overheating.
Aric Almirola pulled off a second-place finish after announcing he would not return to the No. 10 car in 2024. Denny Hamlin remained a bridesmaid yet again, despite finishing third. That is why playoff points are so important. They saved Byron, especially given his 60-point penalty earlier in the season.
Eight penalties (all under yellow) included a costly speeding-on-pit-road penalty for Martin Truex, Jr. that eliminated him from contention. That’s despite last-minute pit-crew changes made after a loose tire cost him the ability to contend last week at Homestead.
Truex wasn’t the only speeder. Six of the eight penalties were for speeding. The other two were equipment violation issues.
NBC pointed out that no one has won from pit box #1 in won in 10 years. The last driver to do it was Jimmie Johnson.
And that’s the 2023 fall Martinsville race report!