It seems like no one escapes the Martinsville Mayhem at some point in their career. Drivers almost expect something to happen to them, or someone else, at Martinsville Speedway. Sunday’s First Data 500 should be no exception.

Kyle Busch Martinsville
Kyle Busch leads the Monster Energy Cup Series Playoff, and has the best record of any current driver at Martinsville. (Image: AP)

Eight drivers will start today in the first contest in the race to the final four in the NASCAR playoff. The competitors are separated by no more than 37 points, and a strong performance today could go a long way to getting a driver to the final four at Homestead Nov. 17 in Miami.

Kevin Harvick is two spots away from the No. 4 spot, which is currently occupied by Joey Logano. Harvick, who is listed at 14/1 to win, says Martinsville is a complex racetrack.

“Some guys just have a knack for Martinsville,” Harvick said. “There are some weekends when I show up and I feel good about where I’m at, and some weekends I just feel like I’ve never been there before. You look at this little bitty racetrack and you think it would be so simple, and you go out there and it becomes so hard.”

Kyle Busch Finding Mojo at Martinsville

One of the masters of Martinsville is Kyle Busch, who is the favorite this week at 5/2. That wasn’t always the case, however. Busch told reporters this week that this racetrack was a mystery to him for a long time.

“It did take me a little bit to get going at Martinsville,” Busch said. “I was out to lunch there for a long time. I ran into everything except the hot dog stand.”

It took a few years, but now Busch has one of the best records at Martinsville. He won in the spring of 2016, then again at this event in 2017. Since then, he hasn’t had a finish below fourth.

“I finally figured it out, I guess,” Busch said. “I got to where I finished in the top five a few times, you know, third and a second, a fifth, a third. And then in 2016, I think it was, we won the spring race and then came back and won the fall race in 2017.”

Chase Elliott Hoping to Repeat March Result

One driver that hopes the Martinsville Mayhem is behind him is Chase Elliott. Elliott tangled with Denny Hamlin in 2017, getting knocked out of the race, and finishing 27th.

Since then, he has had nothing but top 10s, including a second in March. He told reporters he is looking to win at Martinsville.

“I think our best shot at the next round is to win,” Elliott said. “I don’t know how many points those guys have, but between us, they have to have a bunch of points, right? A win would be the greatest way to move on and assure you a spot a Homestead.”

Elliott was the beneficiary of Brad Keselowski’s bad luck. Keselowski had the final spot, but two overtimes last Sunday at Kansas, allowed Elliott to move into eighth and advance.

“Magic, luck, good fortune, whatever it was, I’m happy we were able to get through,” Elliott said after Sunday’s race. “But these last two weeks to go through all these stuff we did … and still move on, it’s a wonder that’s for sure.”

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