Martin Truex wins 5th race of the year in playoff opener at Las Vegas

Yahoo Sports

Martin Truex Jr. is moving on to the second round of the NASCAR playoffs.

Truex passed Kevin Harvick with fewer than 25 laps to go and drove away for a near-four second win to get his fifth win of the season and automatically advance to the second round of NASCAR’s four-round Cup Series playoffs.

It’s the third time in the past four seasons that Truex has won the first race of the playoffs. He won the 2016 and 2017 playoff openers at Chicago while he was driving for Furniture Row Racing. That 2016 win came before his car failed post-race inspection. But he kept the win and NASCAR declined to issue a penalty because it realized its penalty inconsistency.

The win is the 14th in 27 races for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2019. The team is going after a modern record of 18 wins in 36 races by Hendrick Motorsports in 2007.

Truex won the race’s second stage as well. Kevin Harvick finished second and Brad Keselowski was third while Chase Elliott was fourth. Harvick just needs to finish eight points ahead of the driver in 13th at Richmond to clinch a spot in the second round of the playoffs.

Kyle Busch’s eventful night

Busch hit the wall early in the race and ended up two laps down after a pit stop to fix the damage and change right-side tires.

Busch got back onto the lead lap but then collided with the laps-down car of Garrett Smithley and fell like a rock through the field after he had climbed back into the top 10. Busch ended up finishing in 19th.

He’s still fourth in the standings thanks to being the regular-season champion and also scoring four wins in the first 26 races.

JGR teammate Erik Jones isn’t so lucky. Jones is 16th among the 16-driver playoff field after his car had to go to the garage in the second stage. Jones’ car was stuck in second gear after a restart and he ended up finishing 36th of 39 cars.

Stewart-Haas gets just one car in the top 10

Stewart-Haas Racing’s four cars swept the first two rows in qualifying on Saturday. They didn’t finish in that neighborhood on Sunday.

While Harvick was second, Aric Almirola was the team’s second-best car in 13th. Daniel Suarez was 20th and Clint Bowyer, the pole-sitter on Sunday night, finished 25th after having to make an unscheduled pit stop for a tire rub.

The finish is detrimental for Bowyer who entered the playoffs without any bonus points. He’s now 21 points outside of the second round with two more races to go before the field is cut from 16 drivers to 12. Almirola, meanwhile, is six points ahead of 13th in the final provisional playoff spot.

Playoff Standings

1. Martin Truex Jr. (Vegas Win)

2. Kevin Harvick, +52 points above 13th

3. Joey Logano, +48

4. Kyle Busch, +36

5. Brad Keselowski, +31

6. Chase Elliott, +30

7. Denny Hamlin, +29

8. Kyle Larson, +17

9. William Byron, +13

10. Ryan Blaney, +12

11. Alex Bowman, +11

12. Aric Almirola, +6

13. Ryan Newman

14. Kurt Busch, -14 behind 12th

15. Clint Bowyer, -21

16. Erik Jones, -26


1. Martin Truex Jr.

2. Kevin Harvick

3. Brad Keselowski

4. Chase Elliott

5. Ryan Blaney

6. Alex Bowman

7. William Byron

8. Kyle Larson

9. Joey Logano

10. Ryan Newman

11. Jimmie Johnson

12. Austin Dillon

13. Aric Almirola

14. Paul Menard

15. Denny Hamlin

16, Ty Dillon

17. Daniel Hemric

18. Chris Buescher

19. Kyle Busch

20. Daniel Suarez

21. Matt DiBenedetto

22. David Ragan

23. Bubba Wallace

24. Michael McDowell

25. Clint Bowyer

26. Ricky Stenhouse Jr,

27. Ryan Preece

28. Corey LaJoie

29. Landon Cassill

30. Matt Tifft

31. Ross Chastain

32. JJ Yeley

33. BJ McLeod

34. Joe Nemechek

35. Garrett Smithley

36. Erik Jones

37. Reed Sorenson

38. Joey Gase

39. Kurt Busch

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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