Martin Truex Jr. Assumes the Mantle After Winning at Las Vegas

A familiar refrain was heard this weekend at Las Vegas from the playoff drivers – “Stay out of my lane!”

Evidently, the other 23 cars, or so, are just supposed to pull over and let the playoff drivers run through the field and battle for the win amongst themselves. Or at least that is what you would think after listening to the drivers complain all race long and then even after the race.

Let’s face it, NASCAR is unique in the world of pro sports playoffs. Not only do the playoff drivers have to race each other, they have to compete against all the other cars on the track. As crazy as that is, it’s the system we have. Supposedly, these drivers are the best of the best and there are some seasoned veterans among the current group of the top 16. While some are younger than other, none of them are rookies. They have been racing for a really long time. So, when Kyle Busch clips the wall all by himself and then winds up racing in dirty air, he gets ticked off. After appearing to rally, he then decided that the best way around lapped traffic was through lapped traffic. Yeah. Well. That didn’t end so well for Kyle. He made bumper kisses first with Joey Gase, then he ran up on and tried to go through Garrett Smithley.

That left Busch with damage to his front end and put him back to finish in 19th place. Which left him pretty teed off for quite a while as he tried to win-shame the drivers whom he felt were in his way around the track. Needless to say, other drivers made it around the two, it was just Kyle who somehow forget how to navigate lapped traffic in a playoff race.

Mind you, there were several others who were complaining about non-playoff drivers getting in the way, but none of the others decided to play bumper cars and potentially ruin their day and playoff hopes. Kyle is fine at 4th place in points and after winning the regular season…title? I don’t know what to call that. But with Richmond and the Roval coming up, he needs to get back to top 5 finishes. Richmond is a good place for him to start.

With all that going on, Martin Truex, Jr. (MTJ) came from his 24th starting position and won Stage 2 and the race, beating what appeared to be a very good Kevin Harvick car. If you recall your NASCAR Playoff Rules, this win puts Martin into Round 2. He could run 30th the next 2 races and make the next round.

And Truex is no slouch at Richmond, and it looks to be a battle of the favorites this week with Truex, Harvick, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowksi and Kyle Busch all having 100+ point driver ratings at Richmond since 2017. Plus, it is Denny Hamlin’s home track, so it should be a wild time. Your last 6 winners at Richmond: MTJ, Kyle B, Kyle B, Kyle L, Joey L, Denny H.

Jimmie Johnson could be the guy who plays spoiler this week with 3 wins at Richmond. He finished 12th this spring but has, arguably, been running better. Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer have a lot of ground to make up after not making much hay out of Las Vegas. They will be very eager to prove themselves here and not at the Roval. That kind of pressure usually doesn’t go Clint’s way.

NASCAR fans mourn the passing of Mike Stefanik, the all-time Whelen Modified title holder. Our condolences to the family.

And lastly, we all learned that Daniel Hemric will be out at RCR at the end of the season due to sponsorship issues. That opens the door for Tyler Reddick, now in the Xfinity Series. If sponsorship can be maintained for him, that would potentially put him in that seat in 2020. Best of luck to Hemric, a talented driver, as Silly Season continues to progress.

(Featured Image Courtesy of NASCAR Media)

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