NASCAR: Tales of the Turtles 400


Martin Truex Jr. punched his ticket into the second round of the Playoffs with a commanding victory at Chicagoland Speedway.

Truex spent the opening part of the race behind polesitter Kyle Busch but would hit trouble when he was caught speeding on pit road during the first round of green flag pit stops.

After fighting his way back up to 10th by the end of Stage 1, Truex lost positions again when he was forced to make an extra stop to tighten unsecured lug nuts.

Throughout Stage 2 and 3 however, Truex had by far the fastest car and took the lead for the first time on Lap 190 – a lead he would hold until the chequered flag for his fifth victory of the season.

Following seven seconds behind was Chase Elliott, who led 42 laps in an impressive drive. Elliott had few Playoff Points going into Chicagoland, so his Stage 2 victory and subsequent second place finish will go a long way towards advancing into the Round of 12.

Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson rounded out an all-Playoff top five, with Joey Logano the first non-Playoff finisher in seventh.

Busch’s #18 team dominated the first stage but suffered a meltdown in Stage 2 when he was forced to make an unscheduled pit stop for a loose wheel. This was bad enough, but the damage was multiplied when Busch’s crew were deemed to be over the wall too soon, forcing him to take a pass-through penalty.

Then two laps down, Busch spent the rest of the race trying to get back on the lead lap. Bad timing with cautions prevented that, leaving the Joe Gibbs driver trapped a lap down and in 15th.

He wasn’t the worst of the Playoff drivers however. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had a disastrous race. After scraping the wall early, he was forced to pit, but his team were indecisive and Stenhouse picked up a commitment line violation. This put him two laps down, but then, after fighting back to the cusp of the top 20, Stenhouse sped on pit road on his last stop. This gave him another penalty and he ended up finishing down in 25th.

Two other playoff drivers finished outside of the top 20, namely Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman. Worryingly for these guys, they struggled on a basis of pure speed, suggesting that both drivers will struggle to make it out of the Round of 16.

Next week the Monster Energy Cup drivers head to Loudon, New Hampshire for the second race in Round 1 of the Playoffs. Last year’s race winner Kevin Harvick will be looking for back-to-back victories to send out his own Playoff statement.

1.       Martin Truex Jr.

2.       Chase Elliott

3.       Kevin Harvick

4.       Denny Hamlin

5.       Kyle Larson

6.       Brad Keselowski

7.       Joey Logano

8.       Jimmie Johnson

9.       Matt Kenseth

10.     Jamie McMurray

11.     Ryan Blaney

15.     Kyle Busch

16.     Austin Dillon

19.     Kurt Busch

21.     Kasey Kahne

23.     Ryan Newman

25.     Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

1.  Martin Truex Jr (ADVANCED)

2.  Kyle Larson (+49)

3.  Kevin Harvick (+41)

4.  Brad Keselowski (+35)

5.  Kyle Busch (+35)

6.  Chase Elliott (+33)

7.  Denny Hamlin (+32)

8.  Jimmie Johnson (+20)

9.  Matt Kenseth (+13)

10. Ryan Blaney (+8)

11. Jamie McMurray (+5)

12. Austin Dillon (+0)

13. Kurt Busch (-0)

14. Ricky Stenhouse Jr (-4)

15. Kasey Kahne (-5)

16. Ryan Newman (-7)