Despite Being Out of Championship Contention Non-Chasers Still Race To Win

Despite being out of championship contention, non-chase drivers will still be going for the win at Martinsville in the Goody's Fast Relief 500 on October 30.

One of the things that makes NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup unique from other sports elimination-style playoffs is when a team or driver are eliminated from Championship contention, they are still on the track each week and can very much contend for wins. 

Martinsville Speedway experienced this just two years ago, when Dale Earnhardt Jr. who had been eliminated from championship contention just a week before, won the Goody’s Fast Relief 500.

The goal of every racer is to win every race they enter and for drivers who have been eliminated from the Chase for the Sprint Cup, they can afford to take more risks than those who are still fighting for a championship.

“We saw the 17 (at Dover) stretch fuel mileage, decided to go slow, went two laps down and finished 11th,” said Greg Biffle. “Because he didn’t pit he saved a pit stop over all the other cars.

“Opportunities like that present themselves.”

“I try to go for the win every week regardless,” Paul Menard said. “For us it’s about learning more for next year. Martinsville is obviously a track that we’ve had some history on in the past; good runs and a good baseline. So we probably won’t stray too far from that, but for the most part in the Chase races if there’s an idea that we’re not sure if it’s better or not, we’ll try it and base off of that for next year.”

While both Biffle and Menard failed to make the Chase in 2016, both drivers have made the Chase since NASCAR switched to the elimination format in 2014. Menard was a Chase racer last season, while Biffle made the Chase two years ago.

For those two, not being in the Chase doesn’t change how they race, even if that means going wheel-to-wheel with someone who is fighting for a championship.

“You have to be somewhat courteous to your competitors, it doesn’t matter who it is,” Biffle said. “I’m not going to run a Chase car any different than anyone else. I try to be respectful of their position and condition and race them for the win.

“I’m not going to worry about who needs a win to transfer. I’m going to worry about getting a win and just try to be respectful racing around those guys.”

“It comes down to how they race you,” Menard said. “It’s no different. They probably are in a worse position than a non-Chase guy is. We’re all going to get mad at each other at some point, so if they instigate it, they have a lot more to lose than non-Chase guys.”

Martin Truex Jr. who won two of the first three races in the Round of 16, agrees.

“I race everybody on the racetrack the same,” he said. “I race everybody the way I want to be raced.”

While Truex does respect that everyone is going for a win, he does hope that drivers remain aware of who they are around on the track.

“I think certainly when it comes down to the end of one of these things you hope that non-Chase guys race you a little bit differently, being that you’re in the Chase” he said. “But at the end of the day, everybody’s out there to try and win. Everybody’s out there for themselves.

“You’ve just got to make sure you’re doing all the right things with everyone.”

As for Martinsville, there’s not much room for keeping things clean.

“Let’s face it, at Martinsville, you’re going to get into a guy’s bumper and beat and bang a little bit and try and get the win,” Biffle said.

Adult ticket prices for the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 start at $45. Seats in the Bill France Tower are only $50.

Ticket prices increase the week of the race.

Last year, Jeff Gordon took home his ninth grandfather clock trophy and was the first driver to clinch a spot in the Championship Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

The Goody’s Fast Relief 500 is the first race in the Round of 8 of the Chase.

In addition to buying tickets at the track, tickets can be purchased by calling 1.877.RACE.TIX or online at
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