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6 Takeaways from the Watkins Glen Road Race

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The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series road-racing is complete with Martin Truex Jr. scoring his fourth victory of 2017 in Sunday’s I Love NY at the Glen 355 at Watkins Glen International.

Truex, as he has done so often this year, he stomped the field in his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota., holding off Matt Kenseth and Daniel Suarez to win.

Here are six takeaways from the race.

The playoffs

By virtue of his Watkins Glen victory, Cup points leader Martin Truex Jr. has an amazing 34 playoff points and he’ll get 15 more when he clinches the regular-season Cup title four weeks from now at Richmond. All those playoff points carry over until the championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

With so many points already in the bank, Truex is close to a lock to make the championship race. Fast all year, Truex has a tremendous points advantage right now.

Toyota power

Once again, Toyota’s dominated the action, as has been the case often in recent weeks.  Martin Truex Jr. won his series-high fourth race of the year in a dominating performance, leading a Toyota 1-2-3-4 ahead of Matt Kenseth, Daniel Suarez and Denny Hamlin

Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Daniel Suarez won Stage 1 and Stage 2, respectively, and the six Toyota Camrys from JGR and Furniture Row Racing clearly were the class of the field.

Busch’s blues

When Kyle Busch finally won last week at Pocono, it seemed he might start a hot streak. But the same type of problems that plagued Busch in the first half of the season bit him again at Watkins Glen.

Busch qualified on the pole for the third week in a row and easily won Stage 1 in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.  Busch had to make a second pit stop after Stage 1 because  a lug nut got trapped between the wheel and the brake caliper on the left front. He restarted 32nd.

In Stage 2, Busch drove all the way up to ninth and appeared to be in good shape to win. But on Lap 45, just after the start of Stage 3, Brad Keselowski got underneath Busch in the inner loop. The two made contact, and Busch had to pit for tires, falling all the way back to 34th.

In the end, Busch fought back to finish seventh, but it wasn’t the victory he wanted and could have had.

Tick tock, tick tock

Now, there are only four races left in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regular season, after which the playoff field will be set. . For drivers like Joey Logano who are outside the playoff window, the clock is ticking and ticking fast.

Dale’s dilemma

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet was horrible in practice (26th and 31st), horrible in qualifying (28th) and horrible in the race, where he had engine problems in the first 20 laps, finishing last in the race.

It’s no secret Earnhardt isn’t a huge fan of road racing, but his car was awful at The Glen. In this, his final season, NASCAR’s 14-time most popular driver needs better cars under him, period.

The crowd

Three sellouts in a row for Watkins Glen. See why we need more road-course races left in the Monster Energy Cup Series? This is always one of the most exciting races of the season and this one didn’t disappoint.

Tom Jensen

Tom Jensen is a veteran motorsports journalist. He spent 13 years with, where he was Digital Content Manager. Previously, he was executive editor of NASCAR Scene and managing editor of National Speed Sport News. Jensen served as the president of the National Motorsports Press Association and is the group’s former Writer of the Year.