Playing it safe, Blaney and several other lead-lap cars waited to make their final pit stop well within their fuel window while Almirola and Chase Elliott were among that pit earlier hoping for one or more late-race cautions.
Instead, the race ended with an unusual 168-lap green flag run and Blaney – on fresher tires – ran down Almirola with 22 of 500 laps to go, going to his outside and cleared him for the lead off Turn 4.
Blaney then held off Almirola by 0.889 seconds at the checkered flag to secure the critical victory which automatically advances him to the final four of the playoffs and the chance to race for the series title next weekend at Phoenix.
The win is the third this season for the driver of the No. 12 Penske Ford, with two coming in the playoffs, and 10th of his career.
“It’s awesome. I grew up in High Point, not too far from here. Closer to High Point honestly, Martinsville is than Charlotte,” Blaney said. “Really cool. Wanting to win here for a long time. Been super close for many years. Awesome to close it out.
“I mean, felt like we put together really strong playoffs, especially the Round of 8, we had a good run in the whole Round of 8. Just overall really proud of the whole effort.
“RP (team owner Roger Penske) couldn’t be here, unfortunately, but I know he was watching. This is awesome. Can’t wait to get to Phoenix next week.”
Joining Blaney in the Championship 4 at Phoenix are Larson, Bell and William Byron, who finished 13th in Sunday’s race.
Hamlin got a good jump on a restart with 19 of 130 laps remaining and held off Blaney by 0.873 seconds to win claim the Stage 1 win. Martin Truex Jr. was third, Briscoe fourth and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top five.
Blaney ran down Hamlin with 29 laps to go in the stage for the lead and held him off by 0.617 seconds to take the Stage 2 win. Briscoe was third, Logano fourth and Keselowski was fifth.
Ryan Newman spun off Turn 4 after contact from Bell to bring out a caution and send the lead-lap cars down pit road on lap 217. Truex was hit with a speeding penalty and had to restart from the rear of the field when the race resumed…