Truex Takes Playoff Opener at Chicagoland

Martin Truex Jr.

Truex Jr. repeated the start of the playoffs the way he did a year ago winning at Chicagoland. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)

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JOLIET, Ill. – Regular-season champion Martin Truex Jr. won the opening race of the 2017 Monster Energy Series Playoffs on Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway.

Truex Jr. repeated the start of the playoffs the way he did a year ago winning at Chicagoland. After romping through the regular season and winning the championship rather handily, Truex Jr. said Sunday was just business as usual and not in any way a statement.

"I don't really care a lot about statements,” he said. “I'm just having fun. It's important to come here and not let the pressure get to you, and I think we did a good job with that."

Chase Elliott, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson completed the top five in the Tales of the Turtles 400.

“Obviously would have been great to battle with Martin a little bit more,” Elliott said.  “We didn't have anything for him.  From where we've been to where we ran today was a major, major step in the right direction, frankly where we need to be, where we deserve to be, to the potential we can run.”

Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray completed the first 10 finishers.

Truex Jr. moves on to Round 2 with his win with Larson, Harvick, Keselowski and Kyle Busch the top five.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series now heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway next Sunday afternoon.

How Truex Jr. Won: He had to battle back from not one but two bouts of adversity early in the race. First Truex Jr. was penalized for speeding on pit road. He fought that off only to have another bad pit stop when only three lug nuts were fastened on his left-rear wheel. But that was it. As the race wore on, Truex Jr.’s car just got faster and once he muscled into the lead he never looked back on his way to Victory Lane.

Who Had a Good Day: Elliott continued his string of strong runs at Chicagoland Speedway during his Cup career leading 42 laps and finishing second (Read More)…Harvick was out front 59 laps on his way to finishing third (Read More).

Who Had a Bad Day: Lots of playoff contenders endured a rough afternoon including Kyle Busch, was was the class of the field early running away from the pole. But a mistake on pit road put him a lap behind and he eventually fell two laps down before battling back to 15th (Read More)…Ricky Stenhouse Jr. slapped the wall early and was out of contention…Kurt Busch tried a pit strategy for track position in the final stage but that backfired after a pit road speeding penalty.

What Else Happened: Weather conditions were different then the sunshine and heat teams practiced and qualified in during the weekend and that did seem to impact the handling of cars at least in the first stage. For the most part though it was a clean race at least in terms of on track incidents with minimal cautions for minor spins. Mistakes on pit road by a number of drivers, including the race winner Truex Jr., punctuated the day.

Quotable:
“I’ve never been slimed before…kind of like it,” Truex Jr. in Victory Lane. (Read More)

Notable: Truex Jr. has only had three pit road speeding penalties this year and the last came at Bristol in April…There were four cautions for 21 laps on Sunday…There were 12 lead changes among seven drivers.

 

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