Martin Truex Jr wins NASCAR Cup Playoffs opener

Martin Truex Jr. celebrates with his crew in Victory Lane after winning a NASCAR Cup Monster Energy Series auto race at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Playoffs began Sunday, and for the second consecutive season Martin Truex Jr. won the opening race at Chicagoland Speedway. Truex, who won four races during the regular season and finished atop the NASCAR Cup standings, won the Tales of the Turtles 400 by a comfortable margin with second-place finisher Chase Elliott 7.179 seconds back.

Truex led for 77 of the 267 laps Sunday afternoon, and as a result of his victory earned automatic advancement into the Round of 8 of the NASCAR Cup Playoffs. Truex also leads the competition, with fifth-place finisher Kyle Larson next in line and Kevin Harvick in third place.

“Every time you go to Victory Lane, it’s special,” he said after the race. “There’s just so many people to thank. I’m kind of speechless, but (team owner) Barney (Visser), and everyone at TRD (Toyota Racing Development) in Costa Mesa building great engines and TRD Salisbury – (sponsors) Bass Pro, Tracker Boats – just everyone, thank you so much. It’s a dream come true, and we’re having the time of our lives.”

Kyle Busch, who won the pole, led Sunday’s race for 85 laps but ultimately finished in 15th place due in large part to a penalty assessed on the 88th lap. Officials ruled that a member of Busch’s pit crew stepped over the wall too soon, and the driver was unable to get back onto the lead lap as a result of the penalty. Busch is tied with Brad Keselowski with 2,061 NASCAR Cup points following Sunday’s race.

Kevin Harvick finished Sunday’s race in third place with Denny Hamlin and the aforementioned Larson completing the Top 5.

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