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NASCAR Cup Series

Truex Survives Elimination Scare, Advances to Round of 12

(Photo: Kevin Ritchie | The Podium Finish)

BRISTOL, Tenn. — 2017 NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. survived an opening-round elimination scare and advanced to the Round of 12 by just five points over Joey Logano.

Truex didn’t have the day he wanted, finishing 19th and two laps off the pace, but avoided becoming the first regular-season champion to get eliminated after the opening round.

“All-in-all, it was just a fighting night,” the Joe Gibbs Racing driver said after Saturday’s race. “You had to fight through it and do the best you could. It wasn’t pretty, but it was enough.”

The 43-year-old from Mayetta, New Jersey opened the playoffs with Murphy’s Law, struggling at Darlington Raceway before a freak crash at Kansas Speedway. Just four laps into the race, Truex blew a tire and hit the wall, ending his day before it essentially got started. According to Goodyear, the crash was a result of a puncture on the right-rear tire.

Truex’s rough start put him seven points below the cutline ahead of Saturday’s elimination race at Bristol Motor Speedway, a place where the 34-time Cup winner has struggled over his career.

After starting fifth, Truex lost track position and had trouble regaining it in dirty air. But because Kevin Harvick finished 29th and Logano got taken out in a crash, Truex went from 13th to 11th in points and narrowly advanced to the second round.

“We started the race off, I felt OK about it,” Truex described. “We got too tight, but track position – we were pretty okay there. Once we lost it, just forget about it – it was plowing tight, blowing the right front off. There wasn’t a whole lot that I could do. [James Small, crew chief] kept adjusting on it. We got a lap down. The last run we finally made a little bit of progress on the car, and we were just so far back.

“It feels really good. I don’t know that this round could have gone any worse. To have to come to Bristol and get through – we knew it was going to be tough. This has not been a very good place for us. We had a decent Bass Pro Toyota tonight. Just got behind on track position. Got a lap down, and then we were kind of stuck. We stuck with it and just tried to go as hard as we could all night, and luckily it all played out. Definitely excited about the next round and the reset. Hopefully, we will keep from having so much bad luck.”

(Photo: Kevin Ritchie | The Podium Finish)

Truex has won three times this season and went on a dominating summer stretch that included seven consecutive finishes of seventh or better starting at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. He finished 24th in the regular-season finale at Daytona International Speedway before the wheels started to fall off in the opening round.

Along with his 15 playoff points for winning three races and six playoff points for winning six stages, Truex earned an additional 15 points for claiming the regular-season title. That served as the decisive cushion for the No. 19 team.

“They got through because of the hard work they put in in the regular season. They get rewarded for it, as they should,” said Denny Hamlin, Truex’s teammate, after winning Saturday’s race. “It buys you some insurance, right? Certainly, they didn’t plan on having the finishes they did. Some of it was unfortunate circumstances. Some of it, just didn’t hit it that day, right? But they earned that position to live another day.

“They’re good enough that, I mean, there’s not one week that you go to, just because of this whole three-race stretch, ain’t nobody sleeping on ’em, that’s for sure.”

After the reset, Truex is seeded second to start the Round of 12 and is tied with William Byron at 3,036 points. It’s officially a clean slate with Texas Motor Speedway in mind.

“They’re going to be tough to beat. I know what they have,” said Chris Gabehart, crew chief for Hamlin. “I know what their resources are. I work very closely with them. If you get down once, shame on the situation. Get down twice, shame on them. They’re not going to get down twice. They’re going to be tough to beat. I’m ready for the challenge. I guarantee you they will bounce back stronger in round two.”

Nathan Solomon serves as the managing editor of The Podium Finish. He has been part of the team since 2021 and is accredited by the National Motorsports Press Association. Solomon is a senior in the Jandoli School of Communication at St. Bonaventure University. Contact him at

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