Martin Truex Jr. left Michigan International Speedway with a sixth-place finish, his third top 10 in the last four races.
The No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing team is on high alert, however, after Kevin Harvick became the NASCAR Cup Series’ 15th different winner of 2022.
Truex sits fourth in the regular-season points standings, but Harvick’s victory knocks Truex out of the playoff grid with three races remaining before the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs begin.
Truex trails Ryan Blaney by 19 points heading into next weekend’s race at Richmond Raceway (Sunday, Aug. 14, 3 p.m. ET, USA Network, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Blaney sits second in the regular-season standings, trailing Chase Elliott for the regular-season title by 119 points.
Sitting below the cut line is a major concern for Truex. Only one spot remains in the playoff grid based on points, and another new winner would eliminate that position. The regular-season champion is guaranteed a playoff berth, however. If Elliott squanders his points lead to Blaney, Blaney could theoretically win the title and qualify for the playoffs without a victory.
Truex, the 2017 Cup Series champion, has qualified for the Championship 4 in five of the past seven seasons, finishing runner-up in 2018, 2019 and 2021. The good news for Truex is his past success at each of the next two tracks on the Cup schedule.
Truex is a three-time winner at Richmond and led 80 laps there in the spring. After that is Watkins Glen International, where Truex hasn’t finished worse than third in each of the past four races.
The No. 19 team will need to score maximum points — or win — throughout the remaining events on the schedule to ensure a last-minute berth into the 2022 playoffs.