Martin Truex, Jr. rallied Saturday night, ultimately passing Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch with 25 laps to go and winning his second consecutive NASCAR Cup Series race. That it came in the series’ playoffs, it seemed, made it all the more surreal.
The victory completed a redemptive finish for Truex, the championship leader coming into the race. The bump from Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who was running on fresher tires, seemed inadvertent, and came in Turn 4, but Truex was still running third when the caution flew.
The victory was his series-high sixth of the season and the 15th in 28 races for the Gibbs cars. The team initially finished in the top four spots, a first for JGR, with Busch hanging on for second, followed by teammates Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones. Jones, however, was later disqualified when his Toyota failed post-race inspection for a rear wheel alignment issue, dropping him to 38th place and severely damaging his chances of advancing to the second playoff stage.
Pole sitter Brad Keselowski moved up to fourth with Jones’ disqualification, and every driver that finished behind him moved up one spot on the final grid, and in the two in-race stages, where Jones had been ninth in the first stage and fourth in the second.
Kevin Harvick and Busch, meanwhile, assured themselves of spots in the second stage of the playoffs, which begins after next week.
The series moves to perhaps the trickiest race of the playoffs at the roval at Charlotte.