Alex Bowman wins Martinsville; Elliott, Hamlin, Truex Jr. go to Championship 4

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Moments after taking the checkered flag Sunday at Martinsville Speedway, Alex Bowman had a visitor join him on the front stretch.

Denny Hamlin, whom Bowman bumped out of the lead with seven laps to go before winning in overtime, drove toward Bowman’s car. Bowman spun out of Hamlin’s way and his car briefly locked front bumpers with Hamlin’s before Hamlin backed up and drove off.

As the confrontation played out, Hamlin’s team radio chimed: “Be smart, Denny. Be smart. Big picture, here. Big picture.”

Indeed, Bowman may have won Sunday’s battle. But Hamlin has a chance to win the war.

Hamlin (finished 24th), reigning Cup Series champion Chase Elliott (finished 16th) and Martin Truex Jr. (finished fourth) all clinched spots in the Championship 4 next week at Phoenix Raceway. They join Kyle Larson (finished 14th), who was the first to clinch by winning two weeks ago at Texas Motor Speedway.

But having an opportunity to finally claim his first Cup title didn’t keep Hamlin from lighting into Bowman.

“He’s just a hack,” Hamlin told NBC Sports. “He’s just an absolute hack. He gets his ass kicked every week by his teammates every week. He’s (expletive) terrible. He’s just terrible. He sees one opportunity and he takes it, but obviously, he’s got the fastest car every week and he runs 10th.

“He didn’t want to race us there. We had a good, clean race. I moved up as high as I could on the race track to give him all the room I could and he still can’t drive.”

As for Bowman, he maintained that his contact with Hamlin wasn’t intentional.

“I just got loose in,” he told NBC Sports. “I got in too deep, knocked him out of the way and literally let him have the lead back, so for anybody that wants to think I was trying to crash him, that obviously wasn’t the case considering I literally gave up the lead at Martinsville to give it back to him.

“He’s been on the other side of that. He’s crashed guys here for wins. I hate doing it. Obviously, I don’t want to crash somebody and I just got loose underneath and spun him out.”

Bowman held off runner-up Kyle Busch, who had to win in order to advance to the Championship 4. Busch, Brad Keselowski (finished third), Joey Logano (finished 10th) and Ryan Blaney (finished 11th) were eliminated from the playoffs.

This story will be updated…

STAGE 1 WINNER: Chase Elliott

STAGE 2 WINNER: Chase Elliott

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Elliott’s 16th-place finish didn’t represent his dominance this afternoon. He led a race-high 289 laps and clinched his Championship 4 berth mid-race after sweeping both stages. With that, Hendrick Motorsports will have two drivers in the title race at Phoenix.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Team Penske failed to put any of their three drivers into the title race despite a valiant late run from Keselowski. Logano and Blaney struggled throughout the afternoon.

NOTABLE: Sunday’s race was the sixth run on Halloween in NASCAR’s premier division and the first since 2010.

NEXT: NASCAR Cup Series championship race at Phoenix Raceway – Sunday, Nov. 3, 3 p.m. ET, NBC and Peacock Premium

Read More About NASCAR

What matters at Martinsville: Playoff teams should play to their strengths Penske trio face each other in quest to reach Cup title race Martinsville Xfinity results, driver points

Alex Bowman wins Martinsville; Elliott, Hamlin, Truex Jr. go to Championship 4 originally appeared on NBCSports.com