Kyle Busch earns spot in championship race at Martinsville

MARTINSVILLE, VA - OCTOBER 29: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M's Halloween Toyota, takes the checkered flag before Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota, to win the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 29, 2017 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

MARTINSVILLE, Va. (AP) – Kyle Busch is the first driver into NASCAR’s championship race, using an overtime pass of teammate Denny Hamlin to win Sunday at Martinsville Speedway.

Hamlin and Chase Elliott had a heated conversation after the checkered flag because Hamlin wrecked Elliott out of the lead to send the race into overtime. Hamlin restarted as the leader, but Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Busch ran inside of him to snatch the lead away.

Martin Truex Jr. went with Busch, and Hamlin faded all the way to seventh.

Elliott was again denied a victory and finished 27th, lowest of the remaining eight playoff drivers. He slammed into the side of Hamlin’s car on the cool-down lap, and the two shouted at each other after they climbed from their cars.

That was just one snippet of the emotion on the line in the first race of the third round of NASCAR’s playoffs. There are eight drivers vying for four slots in next month’s championship-deciding finale, and Busch now has his ticket punched.

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