Fortunately for most of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams, there are no more 1-1/2 mile (cookie cutter) tracks on the schedule before the playoffs begin. Last Saturday’s race in Kentucky saw the top three Cup teams run at the front of the field, with Martin Truex Jr. dominating.
For the second straight year, Truex Jr. swept both stages and won the race. Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick constantly ran near the front of the field, but they had no answer for Truex Jr. Harvick dominated the start of the season with Kyle Busch taking over at the midway point, but Truex Jr. has put his team in the playoff picture with his third win in the last six races.
Leading 174 of the 267 laps, Truex Jr. was rarely passed on the track. Several drivers used two-tire pit strategy to get the lead, but Truex Jr. eventually ran them down. This was his fourth series victory this year, just behind Harvick’s and Busch’s five wins.
“It feels good,” he said after reaching Victory Lane. “You never know how these races are going to play out. You never know what is going to happen and we had such a strong Toyota tonight. They weren’t going to beat us.”
Jimmy Johnson, Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman are all in the playoff field with just seven races to go. Ricky Stenhouse, Paul Menard and Ryan Newman are outside the top 16-driver field, but they feel like they have a chance to get in because of the uniqueness of the seven remaining tracks.
Johnson has been making the news lately. First, his longtime sponsor Lowe’s announced that it will end its sponsorship with Hendrick Motorsports at the end of this season. Lowe’s is one of the few sponsors that funded most of the Cup Series 36-race schedule. Ever since Johnson’s Cup debut in 2001, the pairing of Johnson and Lowe’s have gone on to win a record-tying seven Cup Series championships, as well as 83 race wins and counting.
Johnson’s contract with Hendrick Motorsports runs through 2020 and it was just announced that his crew chief Chad Knaus has re-signed with Hendrick Motorsports and the No. 48 team through 2020. This probably puts a timetable on his quest for a record-breaking eighth Cup Series Championship, as it looks like the 42-year-old Johnson will put away his racing gear and enter the NASCAR Hall Of Fame after 2020.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will resume racing this Sunday in New Hampshire at the Magic Mile track.