Its hard to deny someone a race victory when they are the dominant car. But it’s even harder to deny victory when two cars in the entire field are the head of the class.
On Sunday it was clear at New Hampshire, only one of two drivers deserved to win.
The race was 300 laps in length. If one were to take away the 77 laps that saw Kyle Larson at the front, that means the other 223 laps saw either Kyle Busch or Martin Truex Jr. out front. The only remaining question was which driver was going to be the one to capture the flag at race’s end.
That was cleared up when the halfway point arrived as Truex was caught up in the multi-car pile up that saw many Playoff contenders go to the garage and their day end rather abruptly.
Truex was fine, but saw him tangle with Dale Earnhardt Jr. to cause damage and slow him up enough where he was needing to recover to make it back to the front. Meanwhile, Busch slowed up and snaked his way through without any issues and he found himself as the guy in charge.
At that moment, for the second half of the race, Busch was out front for 147 of the remaining 150 laps.
He won the pole on Friday in easy fashion, and the second half of the race proved he wasn’t to be denied. The near three-second gap showed how strong this car was, and how strong this team can be.
Now both Truex and Busch are guaranteed to be in the next round of the playoffs. Larson, plus Brad Keselowski, are locked into the second round based on the gap they have in points over 16th. The final race next week at Dover will determine the positioning for the second round, as the top-12 will get reset to 3000 points, and then playoff points added in to set the bracket.
STAGE 1 WINNER: Martin Truex Jr.
STAGE 2 WINNER: Kyle Busch
RESULTS: 1-Kyle Busch 2-Larson 3-Kenseth 4-Keselowski 5-Truex Jr. 6-Jones 7-Bowyer 8-Suarez 9-Blaney 10-Logano
NOTABLE FINISHES: 11-Elliott 12-Hamlin 13-Newman 14-Johnson 15-Stenhouse Jr. 16-McMurray 19-Dillon 34-Earnhardt Jr. 35-Kahne 36-Harvick 37-Kurt Busch
CAUTIONS: 6 for 32 laps. Lap 77-82 (Stage 1 Conclusion); 151 159 (#3, 4, 10, 11, 33, 41, 78, 88 Incident-BS); 221-225 (Debris-T4); 264-267 (#5 Incident-T4); 269-272 (#38 Incident-T2); 274-277 (#6 Incident-T2).
LEAD CHANGES: 6 among 3 drivers. Kyle Busch 1-39; M. Truex Jr. 40-77; K. Larson 78; M. Truex Jr. 79-149; Kyle Busch 150-264; M. Truex Jr. 265-267; Kyle Busch (P) 268-300.
TIME OF RACE: 2 Hrs, 57 Mins, 46 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 108.958 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 2.641 Seconds
MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP PLAYOFFS: 1. Truex Jr, 2149*; 2. Larson, -24**; 3. Kyle Busch, -30*; 4. Keselowski, -43**; 5. Hamlin, -61; 6. Kenseth, -62; 7. Johnson, -73; 8. Blaney, -79; 9. Elliott, -79; 10. Harvick, -80; 11. McMurray, -96; 12. Stenhouse Jr, -105; 13. Dillon, -105; 14. Newman, -106; 15. Kurt Busch, -122; 16. Kahne, -126.
*Locked into second round with victory.
**Locked into second round based on points.