Truex be­gins as clear-cut No. 1

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Mike Cham­bers

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.”

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