Martin Truex, Jr. started on the pole, won the first two Stages, led 174 of the 267 laps and then went on to win the Kentucky night race. That’s what you call a dominant performance and was so typical of his 2017 season.
Having three great drivers battling for the top spot should be good for the sport right now. Sadly, there are still a lot of Toyota haters out there who could be enjoying this. Instead of getting behind Ford and cheering Kevin Harvick, they are whining about Truex and Kyle Busch and swallowing up NASCAR/Toyota conspiracy stories. And believe me, those stories are out there.
While there was plenty of racing through the field, no one had much for the 78 car. Kurt Busch led 45 laps and Brad Keselowski led 38 on their way to Top 10 finishes but that was about all anyone had. If you managed to beat Truex off the line at the restart, you could lead some laps. Then he ran you down and passed you.
Kyle Larson somehow managed to miss the driver introductions and had to start at the rear of the field. As happened last year after starting at the rear, he drove through the field in short order before a broken sway bar slowed him down. It was fun to watch but just like so many other times he was unable to close out the race with a win.
The racing for the Top 10 was good all night long even though Truex was running way with the race. Everyone is going for every position they can before the playoffs start in Las Vegas. With just 7 races left, the opportunity to beat the “Big Three” and seal the deal is closing fast. A driver not only has to outperform one of them but also has to get past a tough Team Penske trio. Keselowski isn’t letting off the throttle. Logano is fast even though he has cooled off a bit. And Ryan Blaney is so close to winning if the team can stay consistent. And then there is Kyle Larson who is the fastest Chevy almost every week and just can’t seem to close the deal. Yet.
This means everyone else is looking to nab as many points and stage points as they can to stay in the Top 16. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is the odd man out right now with Austin Dillon having his Daytona win. Stenhouse will need to leapfrog Alex Bowman in points to get in. While that isn’t a huge leap after Bowman finished last at Kentucky, Bowman has been outperforming Stenhouse overall. It’s a slight lead but a lead he should be able to maintain, especially if Stenhouse and Kyle Busch don’t kiss and make up. If Stenhouse gets in Kyle Busch’s way at all, there is going to be some retribution for what happened at Daytona.
And in case you missed it and thought that the lackluster year for Jimmie Johnson was the beginning of the end, Chad Knaus signed a deal that will extend him for the next two years, matching the contract end date for Johnson. So all you Johnson and Knaus haters get to hate for two more seasons. Have fun with that.
This week should provide some excellent racing with the truck race at Eldora on Wednesday evening.
(Lead photo courtesy of NASCAR Media)