NASCAR: Kyle Larson not the big winner at Martinsville

Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, Martinsville, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, Martinsville, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

Kyle Larson earned his second win of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season on Sunday at Martinsville Speedway, clinching a playoff spot in the process.

Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson earned his first win at Martinsville Speedway and his second overall win of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season on Sunday afternoon, making him just the second driver to win more than one race through nine races this year.

Larson also won at Richmond Raceway to start the current run of three straight short track races. Teammate William Byron is the only other driver to have won twice so far this year, winning at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Phoenix Raceway.

Because there are still 17 races remaining in the 26-race regular season, winning more than once is the only way to secure a playoff spot this early in the season, as there is still a chance that there can be more than 16 different winners before the playoffs start. The 16 playoff spots go to the regular season champion and the 15 drivers who rank next highest in wins.

There can be, at most, 13 multi-race winners in the NASCAR Cup Series regular season.

So while the playoff format is seen as a “win and in” format, it was Larson’s Martinsville Speedway win, not his Richmond Raceway win, which solidified his spot in this year’s postseason.

But in reality, Larson was not exactly facing the threat of being knocked out of contention. In the event that there are more winners than playoff spots by the end of the regular season, the tiebreaker to determine which single-race winners make it and which don’t becomes points, and Larson entered the weekend sitting in fourth place in the standings, well above the cut line.

The biggest winner of the weekend? JTG Daugherty Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Seven drivers found victory lane in the season’s first eight races, with Stenhouse leading things off in the season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

But entering Sunday’s 400-lap race around the four-turn, 0.526-mile (0.847-kilometer) Ridgeway, Virginia oval, he was lowest in points of the six single-race winners, sitting in 13th place.

Stenhouse may have that Daytona 500 win, but his playoff spot isn’t secure if there are more than 16 winners, which there could still very well be.

So the fact that Larson emerged victorious at Martinsville Speedway is a huge plus for the 35-year-old Olive Branch, Mississippi native, as it eliminated a potential opportunity for a new winner to emerge.

On top of that, Stenhouse had a surprising result, placing eighth. He generally isn’t seen as much of a threat outside of superspeedways, but he now has three top eight finishes in the last four races, none of which at superspeedways, and he sits in 13th in the standings.

He is still the lowest ranking single-race winner points-wise, but he is the lowest of five instead of the lowest of seven.

All-time NASCAR Cup Series wins list. dark. Next

The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season’s 10th race, the GEICO 500, is set to be broadcast live on Fox from Talladega Superspeedway, the place where Stenhouse earned his first career win in 2017, beginning at 3:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, April 23. Start a free trial of FuboTV today and don’t miss it!