Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Truex Not A Lock for the Championship
Martin Truex Jr. has been unstoppable on the mile and a half tracks for most of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, but Kevin Harvick proved otherwise in Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Harvick passed Truex Jr. with ten laps remaining to capture his second victory of the season, and first at Texas.
It prevented the No. 78 team from winning a fifth consecutive 1.5-mile event as they hadn’t been defeated since Austin Dillon’s victory at Charlotte in May.
While Truex still dominated and led the most laps, it proved that the championship may not quite yet belong to Furniture Row Racing.
Truex deserves the title based on his season-long performance including seven victories, 17 top-five, and 24 top-10 finishes.
However, taking top honors in the modern era requires a driver to elevate their game in the Playoffs and beat three challengers in the finale.
Truex clinched his spot in the Championship 4 on Sunday, and can now shift his focus to preparing for the final and most crucial intermediate race of the year at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Texas showed the No. 78 car can be beaten on a mile and a half track after a season’s worth of dominance. Homestead hasn’t been the strongest race for them as of late as they have finished outside the top-10 for three consecutive years, which opens the door for the other three contenders.
Kyle Busch clinched his third straight appearance in the Championship 4 after his Martinsville victory. He captured the title in his first attempt in 2015 and finished sixth last year.
Harvick will also be in contention for the third time, after winning in 2014 and finishing runner-up in 2015.
Both drivers know how to win the championship in the winner-take-all event which is the advantage they hold over Truex.
Competing with the speed and strength of the No. 78 team remains a challenge but matching it with experience may equalize the competition.
Homestead-Miami is about perfection and execution and all three drivers currently locked in have demonstrated an ability to deliver in these areas throughout the Playoffs.
Now the championship race will come down to one team rising above the rest, and there seems to be no early favorite, indicating a very even and competitive battle may be ahead.
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