(MRN) Martin Truex Junior has opened the second round of the 2017 playoffs the same way he began the first round last month – with a trip to Victory Lane. Truex smoothly managed a pair of late restarts, including one in overtime, driving away to his sixth victory of the season on Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway and securing a spot in the semifinal round of the Monster Energy Series Playoffs that opens October 29th at Martinsville Speedway. Truex led twice for ninety-one laps, keeping his Number-78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota in front over the final fifty-seven trips around the mile-and-a-half North Carolina oval. His margin of victory over runner-up Chase Elliott was nine-tenths of a second. Kevin Harvick won the first two stages and led a race-high 149 laps en route to a third-place finish overall. Pole winner Denny Hamlin and Jamie McMurray completed the top five. Playoff participants swept those top five spots and grabbed seven of the first eight with Jimmie Johnson running seventh and Ryan Blaney eighth. Joe Gibbs Racing rookie Daniel Suarez was the highest-finishing non-title contender, in sixth place.
Austin Dillon, who won this year’s first race at C-M-S in late May, finished sixteenth on Sunday in his bid for season sweep.
All but four of the forty starters were running at the finish. The race included fourteen lead changes among eight drivers. There were ten cautions for forty-four laps.
Truex started seventeenth in the forty-car field. That’s the farthest back a fall race winner has qualified at Charlotte since Brad Keselowski lined up twenty-third in 2013.
NASCAR CUP SERIES
Top 10 Finishers in the Bank of America 500
DRIVER STARTING POSITION LAPS LED
1. Martin Truex Jr. (17) 91
2. Chase Elliott (7) 12
3. Kevin Harvick (3) 149
4. Denny Hamlin (Pole) 45
5. Jamie McMurray (18) 4
6. Daniel Suarez (R) (14) —
7. Jimmie Johnson (25) —
8. Ryan Blaney (15) —
9. Kasey Kahne (9) 2
10. Kyle Larson (10) 12
RACE NOTES …
For the fourth week in a row, playoff participants swept the top five spots on Sunday. The race win went to Martin Truex Junior, giving Toyota its first victory in Charlotte’s fall Cup Series race since Clint Bowyer carried the manufacturer into the Winner’s Circle in October 2012. Bowyer finished twenty-seventh in Sunday’s Bank of America 500 … Seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson was the defending winner of Sunday’s race and finished seventh. The last driver with back-to-back victories in the track’s fall race was Johnson himself, in 2004 and 2005 … Chase Elliott and Kasey Kahne joined Johnson in giving Hendrick Motorsports three drivers in Sunday’s top ten.
2017 PLAYOFFS Unofficial Standings Round 2
1. Martin Truex Jr. (Furniture Row) 3,106 Points
2. Kyle Larson (Chip Ganassi Racing) 3,072 (-34)
3. Kevin Harvick (Stewart-Haas) 3,069 (-37)
4. Chase Elliott (Hendrick M’sports) 3,059 (-47)
5. Denny Hamlin (Joe Gibbs Racing) 3,056 (-50)
6. Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing) 3,055 (-51)
7. Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick) 3,051 (-55)
8. Jamie McMurray (Ganassi Racing) 3,044 (-62)
9. Matt Kenseth (Joe Gibbs Racing) 3,043 (-63)
10. Brad Keselowski (Team Penske) 3,042 (-64)
11. Ryan Blaney (Roush Fenway) 3,039 (-67)
12. R. Stenhouse Jr. (Roush Fenway) 3,034 (-72)