Truex Survives Kansas Calamity To Win Again
Now this was a Game 7 moment: Chaos, drama and heavy-duty mayhem ran rampant Sunday afternoon at Kansas Speedway, where Martin Truex Jr. won a wild and utterly unpredictable Hollywood Casino 400.
Truex brought his Furniture Row Racing Toyota home to win at Kansas ahead of Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch and his Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. Ryan Blaney was third in the Wood Brothers Racing Ford, followed by Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin.
For Truex, it was his seventh victory of the year, third in six playoff races and fourth consecutive triumph at a 1.5-mile track, all tops in the Cup Series.
He and the team dedicated the victory to crewmember Jim Watson, 55, who died Saturday night of a heart attack. “We got together in the morning and said the best way we could honor Jim and his family would be a victory,” said Truex.
This was the elimination race in Round 2 of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, the third and final race of this round. When the wrecking and mechanical maladies finally stopped, Jamie McMurray, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Matt Kenseth and Kyle Larson were knocked out of the championship battle.
Truex, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Elliott, Blaney and Jimmie Johnson will all advance to Round 3 of the playoffs, which begin next Sunday at Martinsville Speedway.
The big shocker was that Larson, who was third in points coming into the race, suffered an engine failure on Lap 73 in his Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet and was knocked out of the race and out of the playoffs.
Truex, the regular-season points leader, started from the pole in his all-conquering Furniture Row Racing Toyota. But a restart penalty early on cost him the lead and allowed Kyle Busch to take the victory in Stage 1.
Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Hamlin won Stage 2, only to get a pit-road speeding penalty on his subsequent stop.
In the third and final stage, seven-time Cup champion Johnson spun twice, the first time on Lap 186 of the 267-lap race, and appeared to be about to fall out of the playoffs.
But on Lap 198, just after the restart for Johnson’s second spin, there was a big crash on the backstretch after Erik Jones lost control of his car and hit the wall, triggering a pileup that snared Daniel Suarez, McMurray, Clint Bowyer and, most importantly, Kenseth.
Kenseth’s car was heavily damaged in the incident and when he pitted for repairs, the team sent too many men over the wall, which under NASCAR’s Damaged Vehicle Policy is an automatic disqualification from the race. That ended Kenseth’s day and knocked him out of the playoffs.
Busch led on the restart, but Truex passed him on Lap 217 and from there drove away to an easy victory.