Truex begins as clear-cut No. 1
With a series-high 53 playoff bonus points, top-seeded driver Martin Truex Jr. and the No. 78 Toyota of Denver-based Furniture Row Racing enters NASCAR’S 10-race playoffs with an excellent chance to advance to championship weekend at the season finale Nov. 19 in Homestead, Fla.
There could be disappointments in the first nine playoff races, beginning Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway, but it would have to take place multiple times in the same round to prevent the top-seeded Truex from advancing to the final four outside Miami.
Truex, the regular-season champion, leads in virtually every statistical category.
“Our plan is to focus on continuing to do what we’ve been doing,” Truex said in a phone interview. “It’s a little harder in the playoffs, because I feel everybody steps it up — especially some of the guys who haven’t had the season they’ve been looking for. But with the speed we’ve shown and the consistency we’ve had, it’s definitely a position you want to be in. We’re in the right spot.”
Truex has banked 20 more playoff bonus points than second-place Kyle Larson and a whopping 50 more than Jamie Mcmurray, who rounds out the 16-car playoff field. Truex’s body of work should all but guarantee him to be in championship position at Homestead. This is the first year of the new playoff bonus points system — created partly because of what happened to Truex last year.
Truex won two of the first three playoff races in 2016 but blew an engine at Talladega and was eliminated.
“We could have used them last year with the way the playoffs worked out for us,” Truex said of the new bonus points sytem. “We just need to focus on running as strong as we possibly can and keep the momentum going that we’ve had. “
In all points races, including playoff races, the winner receives 40 points. Second place earns 35, third place 34 and fourth place 33, and so on, down to one point for drivers who finish 36th to 40th. The maximum points a driver can earn in a race is 60 (40 for the race win plus 20 points for winning both stages).
“First round, barring a catastrophic three races, we’ll be in good shape,” Truex said. “As you get to the second and third rounds, I don’t know if there’s any amount of bonus points that will keep you safe. We just have to continue what we’ve been doing and make sure we don’t screw it up.”