At the end of the NASCAR season, one driver will take home what 40 opened the season aiming for: The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title.
For drivers participating in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, the upcoming trip to Martinsville for the First Data 500 on October 29, has become a crucial step on the path to that title.
Martinsville’s spot in the schedule, the first race in the third round of the Playoffs, means that a win on the half-mile secures the winning driver a spot in the Championship Four at Homestead-Miami Speedway and two weeks of peace of mind.
It is that fact that makes the First Data 500 the “most important Playoff race” to Playoff participant and former series champion Kurt Busch.
“Martinsville is, with no disrespect to the other Playoff races, the most important Playoff race,” Busch said. “You can lock your way into Homestead or you can have a rough day there and be digging out of a hole you can’t survive.”
Last year, Jimmie Johnson was able to turn a win at Martinsville into a record-tying seventh series championship less than a month later. He hope to duplicate that when he returns to Martinsville for the First Data 500.
“That win was huge for us last year. We were able to win at Martinsville and take a couple of weeks to really focus on one car – the car we had slated for Homestead,” Johnson recalled. “It gave us a great opportunity to focus on just Homestead.”
When 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Regular Season Champion Martin Truex Jr. was asked about the crucial nature of the First Data 500, however, he noted that the importance of the race is not lost on any of the Playoff participants, making a win even more difficult to achieve on the tight confines at Martinsville Speedway.
“I think everybody’s perfect scenario would be to win that race,” to advance in the Playoffs, Truex said. “When everybody is going for the same thing, though, it makes it awfully tough.”
Former series champion Brad Keselowski – the a race-winner at Martinsville just five months ago - noted that recent success at the track can be encouraging for drivers when they arrive with a chance to clinch a spot in the ultimate round of the Playoffs.
“Martinsville is a critical race. Being the first race in the third round, if you win that one you’ve got two weeks to really think about Homestead and dial in and focus on that race,” Keselowski said. “I think that’s an incredible opportunity. Our cars have been very fast there the last couple of years so I think we’ve got a great shot at it.”
The First Data 500 is the first race in the Round of 8 of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. If the winning driver is in the Playoffs, he would be the first to clinch a spot in the Championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Last fall, Johnson won his ninth grandfather clock, on the way to winning his record-tying seventh NASCAR Cup Series championship.
As part of the on-site entertainment during First Data 500 weekend Martinsville Speedway will host FanFest on Saturday, October 28 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., featuring eight Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers. FanFest is a free event giving fans an up-close look at some of the sport’s biggest stars, off the track. There will be special accommodations made for youth in attendance at the event so that they may experience FanFest front and center.
Tickets for the First Data 500 start at $46 and are on sale now. Youth tickets are available starting at $15, with teen pricing available starting at $25. Family four packs start at $110 and military specials are available, as well. Tickets may be purchased by calling 877.RACE.TIX or online at www.martinsvillespeedway.com.