KANSAS CITY, KAN. After struggling for two-thirds of the race and bouncing in and out of the playoff transfer spot, Martin Truex Jr. and his Furniture Row Racing team dug deep to pull off a fifth-place finish and secure enough points to advance to the Round of 8.
It was evident early that Truex had handling problems, picking up only one out of possible 20 stage points in Sunday’s race at Kansas Speedway. But when he crossed the finish line with his 18th top-five finish of the season he was eight points to the good for the playoff transfer spot.
Based on his bonus points earned throughout the season, Truex enters the next playoff round in third place and a 23-point cushion over the fifth-place position. The top four drivers from the Round of 8 (at Martinsville, Texas and Phoenix) will advance to the championship round in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Truex finished 12th in the first stage and 10th in the second. After pitting for fresh tires and adjustments following the second stage, things started to turn in Truex’s favor. He gained four spots on the pit stop and went on to drive a steady and solid race – staying above the cutline in his No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/5-hour ENERGY Toyota.
“It was a tough day - blue–collar day for sure,” Truex said. “We worked hard and the guys never gave up on the car. They kept working on it for me and I just kept trying to get all I could out of it. The pit crew saved us today, they were unbelievable. They are probably the reason we transferred on. That’s something you need going down the stretch for a championship.
“At times it was pretty bad and not much fun. That’s part of this deal. This stuff is hard man. It shows how difficult it is to win both races here last year and run second in the spring and then come back trying to be better and struggling all day. But we still managed to get fifth.
“We struggled a little bit yesterday in practice and we thought we knew what to do to fix the problems. Clearly we didn’t because we had the same ones today, but proud of the effort of all the guys. Those last couple of runs we got our car way better and was able to hang on to it. All our guys back in Denver, I got to thank them for continuing to build great race cars and keeping their heads in the game.”
The race winner was Chase Elliott. Rounding out the top 10 were: Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Erik Jones, Truex, Brad Keselowski, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Alex Bowman and Aric Almirola.
The race had three cautions for 17 laps and there were 11 lead changes among eight drivers.
Martinsville (Va.) Speedway will host the next race – Sunday Oct. 28.
Round of 8 Playoff Point Standings
1. Kyle Busch, 4055 points
2. Kevin Harvick, 4054
3. Martin Truex Jr., 4038
4. Chase Elliott, 4018
5. Clint Bowyer, 4015
6. Joey Logano, 4015
7. Kurt Busch, 4015
8. Aric Almirola, 4006