On Saturday, Aric Almirola announced he will retire from full-time NASCAR Cup Series racing at the end of 2023. He had an opportunity for a storybook ending the following day when he took the lead with less than 100 laps remaining at Martinsville Speedway, but Ryan Blaney had other plans.
Blaney, racing on newer tyres, passed Almirola with twenty-three laps left to secure his career-tying third win of the year and assure himself of spot in the Championship Round. It will be his first appearance in the final round.
He was already ten points above the cut line entering Martinsville, but the victory locked him into the finale alongside the already-clinched Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell. William Byron also qualified on points.
“The last twenty laps, all that goes through your head is there’s going to be a yellow, there’s going to be a yellow, it’s going to screw up the whole race, people are going to stay out, people are going to take no tyres, there’s going to be four cautions to end this thing. Hopefully you don’t get moved, spun, wrecked, ruin your year,” recounted Blaney. “That’s the only thing going through your head, right?
“Just get to the white was the only thing that really concerned me at the time. Running down the #10, I was running harder. I think everyone just kind of fell off pretty good, and I saved my stuff early where I could get through traffic pretty good. It benefited us later in the run.”