Monday, October 09, 2017 1:00 am
Toyota continues to rule playoffs
JENNA FRYER | Associated Press
1. Truex Jr Toyota
2. Elliott Chevrolet
3. Harvick Ford
4. Hamlin Toyota
5. McMurray Chevrolet
1. Truex 3106
2. Larson 3072
3. Harvick 3069
4. Elliott 3059
5. Hamlin 3056
CONCORD, N.C. – Martin Truex Jr. gave Toyota yet another victory in NASCAR's playoffs – the manufacturer is 4 for 4 so far – on a humid Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Truex has two wins in the playoffs, this one gets him an automatic berth into the next round, and it's the first time in this format that Toyota has won a race in this round of postseason.
“Just a total team effort,” Truex said. “Every single guy, every guy on this team just did a perfect job today and I can't be more proud of them and at this time of the year is just when you want it to happen. You dream about days like today. I don't know if we had the best car, but we damn sure go it in victory lane.”
Kyle Busch, winner of the last two playoff races, wrecked early in the race yet completed it in a damaged race car. Complaining most of the 500 miles of being overheated, he needed immediate medical attention when he climbed from his car.
Busch laid in the grass, packs of ice were placed on his chest, and a stretcher was brought to him.
“I felt like I was having a heat stroke,” Busch said.
The humidity drained several drivers, including Truex, who had to catch his breath after taking his sixth victory of the season.
“Seeing him after the race, how whipped he was, was kind of a shock,” crew chief Cole Pearn said.
Truex has proven weekly he's the driver to beat in this championship race, and did it again Sunday by working with his Furniture Row Racing team to steadily improve his car through the first two stages of the race. He wasn't the strongest early – the first two stage victories went to Kevin Harvick, and Truex didn't earn Stage 1 playoff points for the first time since July – but he was untouchable by the final segment.
Truex won in overtime after two late cautions created extra laps and forced Truex to hold off fellow Toyota driver Denny Hamlin on a pair of restarts.
Chase Elliott finished second for the second consecutive week and sixth time in his career. He nearly won for the first time in the Cup series a week ago, but Busch ran him down and passed him for the win with one lap to go.
Harvick was third and Hamlin finished fourth. Like his teammate Busch, Hamlin was drained after the race. His firesuit was soaked with sweat stains and he needed to eat a banana to recover.
“You usually can tell hydration level from my suit,” Hamlin said. “Any time it has white streaks all over it, I'm spent pretty good. I feel pretty bad, no doubt about it.”
Jamie McMurray was fifth, Jimmie Johnson seventh and Ryan Blaney eighth.
Kyle Larson was 10th, Matt Kenseth 11th, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 13th, Brad Keselowski 15th and Busch 29th.