Chicagoland Rear-View Mirror

Martin Truex Jr.

The class of the regular season continued his dominating campaign with another sterling performance Sunday leading 77 laps on his way to Victory Lane. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)

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JOLIET, Ill. – The first salvo of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs was fired Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway. Not surprisingly it came from Martin Truex Jr.

The class of the regular season continued his dominating campaign with another sterling performance Sunday leading 77 laps on his way to Victory Lane.

Just for good measure, Truex Jr. and the Furniture Row Racing team did it in comeback fashion, first from a pit road speeding penalty and then from a poor tire installation on stop two that caused the 78 car back to pit road.

But it was like the proverbial cat playing with a mouse, you know before he devours it.

Once Truex Jr. put his adversity behind he was literally unstoppable, running away form his competitors, many who made mistakes of their own but weren’t able – or fast enough ‘ to come back to challenge.

Truex Jr.’s playoff point total ballooned to 58 points and he’s on to the next round.

And if you weren’t convinced he’ll be on to Homestead-Miami Speedway to race for the title before this weekend, even the most ardent non-believers have to be convinced after Sunday’s effort.

  • The weekend got off to a spicy start thanks to a Twitter battle between Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch. Keselowski continued his comments questioning how Toyota has built up such a huge advantage, a perspective he started sharing back in August at Michigan when he wondered of the manufacturer’s teams were sandbagging. Busch responded to Keselowski’s Friday Tweets, which then escalated into a war of words afterward. In a sport that is woefully lacking in rivalries, fanning the flames between Keselowski and Busch might just add some spark to the playoffs, which wouldn’t be a bad thing at all. Tweeting is a far cry from Cale Yarborough and the Allison Brothers battling in the infield of the 1979 Daytona 500, but in 2017 we’ll take it I guess.
  • There was some speculation about why NASCAR took tires from both the cars of Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch during the race to a “dunk tank” inspection station in the garage area. It’s actually a common practice NASCAR uses periodically to ensure teams are not “bleeding” air out of tires to lower pressure and improve grip. Winning crew chief Cole Pearn was asked about the practice and said he had tires taken “about 15 times last year” and probably 5-6 times this season. 
  • All sorts of “Silly Season” talk also permeated the Chicagoland garage. Aric Almirola held a press conference to say he couldn’t say anything about his future but speculation is he’ll be named the driver of Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 10 Ford with Smithfield sponsorship, which will move from Richard Petty Motorsports. Bubba Wallace is expected to drive the RPM No. 43, if sponsorship can keep the car on track, but he didn’t confirm or deny the deal. Furniture Row Racing sold the charter for the No. 77 car and will return to a single car operation next season. Leavine Family Racing is contemplating a two car team and Kasey Kahne’s name is definitely in the mix. And there’s Matt Kenseth finishing out the year as hot as any driver in the Cup Series but still without a 2018 ride.
  • The racing world was shocked by the death of modified star Ted Christopher who lost his life in an airplane crash on Saturday. One of the divisions all-time greats, “TC” was a legend in his native New England and piled up many wins around the country to catapult himself to national attention. But his 15 wins in 18 starts at Thompson Speedway in 2001 remains one of the greatest achievements in short track racing history. All of us at the Motor Racing Network extend our deepest sympathies to Ted Christopher’s family, many friends and legion of fans.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.

 

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