MARTINSVILLE, Va. (AP) — The Latest on NASCAR's playoff race at Martinsville Speedway: (all times local):
Denny Hamlin has won the first stage of Sunday's race at Martinsville Speedway.
Hamlin was eliminated from the playoffs after the first round. As the third round began at Martinsville, Hamlin is racing only to keep a personal streak alive. He's yet to win a race this season, but has at least one victory a year every season since his 2006 rookie campaign.
Hamlin is a five-time winner at the Virginia paperclip.
Playoff contender Clint Bowyer damaged his car slightly on pit road during the break after the stage. Bowyer hit William Byron's car in the tight traffic lane and it spun Byron's car.
Jimmie Johnson has landed a new sponsor.
Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports announced before Sunday's race at Martinsville Speedway that Ally Financial will sponsor the No. 48 Chevrolet next season.
The deal with the seven-time champion is for all 38 races in 2019 and 2020.
Ally wasted no time marketing its investment. Johnson formally introduced his sponsor on NBC Sports' live pre-race show.
Lowe's has sponsored Johnson since his 2001 debut but is leaving NASCAR at the end of the season.
NASCAR begins the third round of the playoffs at Martinsville Speedway with eight drivers still remaining in contention for the championship.
A win at Martinsville on Sunday, or at one of the next two races, earns one of those drivers an automatic berth into the championship finale. Kyle Busch will start from the pole as he represents the so-called Big Three at the front of the field at Martinsville.
Busch has combined with Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. to dominate most of this season, and all three are trying to earn one of the four slots at the Homestead-Miami Speedway finale. Truex is the reigning Cup Series champion and Busch is the defending race winner at Martinsville.
Harvick is the leader of a four-car effort from Stewart-Haas Racing. The team makes up half of this field of eight and wants to push through each of its drivers to the finale.
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